I am not officially a Geordie as far as the rules go of being born in sight of the Tyne, my home town is 20 mins from Newcastle but on the Northumbria border, however I did grow up with a mild ‘Geordie’ accent. I say mild because my mother wouldn’t allow us to speak like some of my relatives who had much stronger accents/dialect. We said talk rhyming with walk, whereas they rhymed it with talc. Of course, I said whey aye and whey na and I divntna….. but my accent was softer and more restrained around my mam.
I was never aware of my accent or in particular my strong vowels till I moved to Spain to work as an au pair, my host was an English teacher and as I switched from Spanish to English, she burst out laughing and said how much deeper my voice sounded. That was the beginning of my awareness of my accent and that it wasn’t necessary a good thing.
Marrying my southerner husband, living in London, teaching in Kent , being surrounded by people, adults and children who openly laughed at the way I prounounced things meant that I changed the way I spoke, there are certain vowel sounds I cannot change and wouldn’t want to (book, poor, sure) but I have also found that I have lost the ability to form other sounds I grew up saying.
I now live in Germany and teach English in a secondary school. I am very aware of the need to be neutral for the sake of the students but I have had many discussions with German collegues about standard English pronunciation and grammar.
I have always been very proud of where I come from but my friends back home rib me for my posh accent.
I am angry that I was made to feel stupid for how I sounded and that I felt I had to change my accent to fit in and that there was and still is a perception of the ‘right’ English to speak. My daughter is even more annoyed as she loves Geordie accents, and wishes I still sounded like the rest of my family, she lays on her best northern vowels when her southern grandparents come to visit!
I am originally from a place that sits between Newcastle, Sunderland, and Gateshead, therefore it’s very difficult to define my accent. Some people from the south, would say it’s Geordie instantly after meeting me. But here’s the thing, if i go to Newcastle, most people with a very strong Geordie accent, insist that i sound like ‘A Mackem’ (Sunderland accent). The interesting part is, when i go to Sunderland, i’m told that i sound like a Geordie. To make matters more complicated, when i went to live and work in Spain, whatever people wanted to class my accent as, didn’t have the same characteristics anyways. After working in Spain, and coming home to the UK, i spoke with a slight Durham twang for some reason. Example: “You’re annoying uz” became “You’re annoying mee”. The mystery of accentism ey!…….
Being a Geordie has always been important to me because it gives me a place to be from. I went to uni in the South and never moved home after that, and for the past 10 years I’ve been living abroad. About 7 years ago, I noticed that my accent was becoming softer; my strong “o” became a mopey “eu”, my decisive “-n” became a whiny “-ing”. Nobody actually seemed to care or notice, but in the process of becoming more like them I was feeling less like me.
I began to look down on people who had softened their accents. I saw it as a weakness in character and a mark of vulnerability. I was indignant that I should need to give up my identity to be understood, and I judged myself for bending unconsciously.
My solution was to become bi-dialectal. From one day to the next I decided only to speak Geordie with other Geordies, and to speak a generic Estuary English with everyone else. This way I’m always in control. I made myself conscious of every difference between Geordie and standard English, and drawing this clear line quickly reversed all of the damage done to my original accent. When I speak Geordie now, it’s with a full sense of pride in that core identity. It means that wherever I am, I’m still from somewhere.
Because of all of this I live with two areas of linguistic discrimination. I still can’t help judging people with weakened regional accents as if they’re trying to snub their roots. Ironically enough, though, there are also the people who find out I’m a Geordie but hear my posh accent and assume that THAT’S an attempt to snub my roots, rather than a way of protecting them.
This was a long time ago, but I’m now realising the prejudice at the heart of my experience. From the outset, it’s worth saying, I am originally from Newcastle and at the time had a much stronger Geordie accent than I do now.
When I was training to become an English teacher in Cumbria, I was delivering a lesson on Thomas Hardy’s poetry to an A Level Literature class. I was being observed by my subject mentor. During the lesson I had read out one of Hardy’s poems from the set text. In the follow up discussion the teacher questioned my reading the poem and said with a polite (not polite) laugh, “Geordies don’t do poetry do they?” She had also written these words on my lesson observation form. To be clear, she was specifically referring to the sound of Hardy’s words coming out of my mouth rather than my analysis of the poem.
Only one year later, during my first Year 9 parents evening, two parents on separate occasions made similar jibes about the irony of “Geordies teaching English”. Perhaps this is why my accent is not as strong as it used to be, something my family enjoy pointing out whenever I go home.
When I was growing up I was told by family that I sounded stupid because of my Geordie accent. Because I said aye instead of yes I somehow was just absolutely stupid. So even though I lived in Newcastle I tried to avoid letting my accent show no matter what. Growing up watching TV, Geordies with strong accents were always stupid on it even on children’s shows. I want to go to a local uni because I’m scared of ridicule for my accent.
I’m a Geordie living in London working in a fun industry where joking around at work is the norm. Unfortunately that means my Geordie vowels eg ‘oo’ in book, and my glottal stops, are ridiculed daily! My colleague answers the phone to me with ‘why aye’. Luckily it’s an accent people love and see as friendly!
As a young academic I once had a student come up to me after a linguistics lecture and tell me they thought it disgraceful that someone with an accent like mine could teach at a university (I’m a Geordie for the record).