Growing up in Stoke, I had a very clear ‘Stokey’ accent. When I was at primary school, members of my extended family suggested to my Mum that I have elocution lessons ‘to help me get on in the world’. My Mum refused – she had a Stoke accent too and felt personally offended by their suggestion, but also because she knew that speaking differently would lead me to be outcast at school and in my community.
As it happened, we moved twenty miles away when I was ten years old and despite the short distance, the kids in my new town did *not* speak like they were from Stoke and eventually my accent was bullied out of me. Look, book, cook and mispronouncing ‘th’ soon became something that felt wrong.
By the time I attended university most people assumed I was from the South as I had adapted my accent so convincingly.
It’s interesting now, as I feel like an accent chameleon – I easily pick up words and pronunciations from others (my partner is from Hampshire and I now regularly drop the ‘h’ from the start of words). This regularly leads to humour amongst friends and family, though it makes me sad as I realise that my own accent identity is so weak that I automatically adapt to ‘fit in’.