I am from North Wales and my accent is reflective of this. Its not what people would identify as a ‘typical Welsh accent.’ Due to the location of where I grew up, North East Wales, my accent sounds similar to that of Chester. I have lived in London for the past five years. The university where I work is not very diverse in terms of regional accents and I am always surprised and happy when I hear one.
This week, I went out for dinner with my sister (who has the same accent as me) and my partner (who is from Chester however was privately educated and has a ‘posh’ accent). When leaving the restaurant, the gentleman sat on the table next to ours stopped my partner and said: ‘Those girls are from the North’ to which he replied: ‘We all are.’ The man said ‘You don’t sound like your from the North’ to my partner, before briefly discussing the area he was from, after which we left.
Although I did find this encounter funny at the time, on reflection there were several elements of the interaction which bothered me. Firstly, as I wouldn’t necessarily think of myself as having a ‘northern’ accent I was surprised that his person picked up on it so much he felt the need to comment on it. Secondly, I wondered what his person hoped to achieve by pointing out our accent. From my perspective, it only made me very conscious about how others noticed and perceived my accent. Possibly he was only interested in learning where we were ‘from.’ However my final thought, and prevailing sense of discomfort about the interaction, was how this person directed the questions to my partner and did not acknowledge my own or my sisters presence. Thus excluding us from a conversation about our own accents. As this was my first direct experience of ‘accentism’ I searched online for others who experienced may have experienced stigma related to ‘northern’ accents and came across this project. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.
I’m from the North East of England (born and raised) and despite my family (who are also all from the North East) and peers having strong northern accents, I don’t; and instead I have an accent that most people sight as being American. This leads to a lot of jokes between me and my friends. I’ve also grown used to people asking me about my accent and where me and my family are from. However, because of my accent being strange it quite frequently made me the target of bullying in primary and secondary school which made me extremely self conscious about the way I talk.
Having a scouse (or any regional) accent is seen as being linked to having a working-class background. That’s not the case for me. I speak with a scouse accent and was lucky enough to have a privileged upbringing in an affluent area of Liverpool. I have very middle-class background. But I have still experienced classist comments based on my accent. I’m so proud of being from Liverpool (even if I’m not a ‘proper’ scouser, being from a village further out!). The assumptions and snobbery around accents make me rage.
It wasn’t until I left home to go to uni in the mid-00s that I started to experience people treating me differently because of my accent. This was a uni up north, but RP-speaking students from down south didn’t seem to mind being on ‘our’ turf. My most memorable story of accentism is from when I dated someone from the south east. I went to visit him during the summer holidays and had to meet his group of friends, who were insufferable. One of them didn’t even introduce himself before asking ‘What’s it like living in Liverpool then? I can’t even imagine being in a council house, it must be disgusting?’. I think my jaw hit the floor. Speechless… The guy I was seeing then told his friends that I was ‘actually posher’ than them, which left me in a weird state, wanting to prove to them that accent doesn’t = money/class and what kind of idiot judges people on that anyway? But also wanting play down being ‘posh’ because I didn’t want his group of friends to think I was one of them, a snob who seemed to have a problem with anyone who was different from them. But if I went on a rant about classism then was I a fraud because I wasn’t really working class, just spoke like it in their eyes? I think I made some lame comment about him needing to leave home and get into the real world. I look back now and kick myself for not starting a full-on fight with the whole group of them. One of them is now a Tory MP, just to top it off!
I grew up in the north so i have a northern accent but my dad and my auntie were brought up to speak ‘proper English’. My auntie would constantly be telling me how to say certain words like ‘baf’ instead of ‘bath’ or ‘half parst’ instead of ‘half past’. She would say the way i spoke sounded ‘common’ and ‘unprofessional’ which really annoyed me cause i couldn’t help it. Luckily people around me had the same accent as me so it didn’t bother me too much.
I am an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. I have a strong accent, as I come from Bradford. Since arriving at university, where the vast majority of people’s voices ring with the supposedly dulcet tones of RP, I have constantly experienced problems due to my accent. I have been asked to ‘speak properly’ by tutors when speaking in tutorials. I have been mocked by other students due to my pronunciation of certain words. I have been told that I will never get a job if I do not allow my accent to ‘mellow’- i.e. conform. In a progress meeting with tutors, I was told that my presenting skills needed work. I am a confident and skilled presenter: they just couldn’t understand or wouldn’t try to understand my accent.
My husband is from the south east and I am from a northern coastal town. He HATES my accent. At first, I think he thought it was novel and interesting, but now he corrects at least one word from every sentence I utter. My pronunciation of grass/bath is often the target, but recently the way I (have always) not emphasised a ‘t’ at the end of a word absolutely disgusts him. It’s a big issue.
I haven’t experienced this sort of accent annoyance before – I attended a ‘middle class’ university (according to the dean in our welcome speech) and other students found me difficult to understand, or would laugh at everything I said, assuming northerners were all comedians… but no one was ever insulting or derogatory about it to my face. In fact, some of my tutors would make an effort to encourage me to speak and one in particular, who also had a northern accent, would compliment me on the ‘correct’ pronunciation of words!
So I am northern Italian, which is already a bit of a strange accent for Italy (long vowels, many consonants fall, etc.), then I moved to England and lived first in Yorkshire where my best friend is from, and then in Oxford, but with two Irishmen and a Scot in the house, and then I met my future husband who is a Welshman raised in Norfolk. The result? After four years in England, I developed what has been recently defined by a friend of mine a ‘Eurotrash’ accent, with bits of Irish, Northern, Scot pronunciation scattered here and there across my fake-RP.
That said, I love English Northern pronunciation and every day that passes I am more and more tempted to ditch the stupid RP and just go for my northern mash!
Mine started a long time ago. When I started at Oxford in the late 80s someone told me, ‘You can’t possibly be studying English at Oxford with an accent like that!’ This came hot on the heels of a teacher at a study week telling me ‘The northern accent is generally associated with being thick.’ I now teach on the outskirts of Birmingham and it’s lovely listening to some of my A level language students who are really proud of their accent despite the prejudice they encounter. Same kind of things I was getting back then.
While working as a waitress in Spain I was once asked by a fellow Englishman if I had ferrets and lived on a farm because I was from the north.
Also while working at the same job another English customer told me ‘oh, you’re actually quite intelligent despite your stupid northern accent’.
While working as an English teacher in Spain, a student once asked me why I didn’t ‘autocorrect myself and at least try to speak in standard English’.
I grew up in the South East, in and around Royal Tunbridge Wells. I went to university up north and uni friends, housemates and course-mates (vast majority Northerners) would often remark on the way I pronounced things, particularly the classics like ‘grass’ and ‘bath’. One person would repeat the word/phrase in an over-done RP accent and the rest of the group (including me, most of the time) would get a bit of a giggle out of it. People would often assume I had loads of money and my family were landed gentry or Viscounts or something.
I went to the ‘second’ university in the town (an ex-polytechnic) and, interestingly, people I met who didn’t know that, would assume that I went to the ‘primary’ university in the town, renowned for being (better) and with higher entry requirements.
Definitely found myself inadvertently adopting a bit of a Northern twang by the time I got to third year!