Reading a story at the end of last year by an academic defending her regional accent, which she had been advised to “change” or at least “tone down” if she wanted to progress, made me cross and sad.
I love hearing different accents – especially as my own is so nondescript. Unless I am tired or talking to my mum on the phone, the years of living in different parts of the country – starting with university in West Sussex and via places such as Darlington where the local accent was like music to my ears – have gradually eroded my Suffolk accent until I doubt many people would be able to tell where I am from (other than England) just from hearing me speak.
When I was 18 a friend warned me it would happen and, having had a few brushes with people taking the micky out of the way I said certain things in “Silly Suffolk”, I was probably quite pleased but as I have got older, the reverse has become true; I envy people with a strong accent.
And with a husband from the Black Country, a brother with a transatlantic twang, thanks to decades of living in the US, and friends from various places – all with distinctive accents they are proud of – I feel a bit left out.
It got me thinking about Freya, who has started to say her first few proper words, and wonder what sort of accent she will have. Clearly, when she starts school, her peers will likely have an influence – although we live in such a diverse society now that I wonder how many will speak with a Norfolk accent (and especially any of the dialect)? I want her to feel connected to the place she was born, to be proud of where she is from, and having a local accent is part of that.
At present, her accent is best described as odd. For example, when she says: “Ooohhh no!” if something goes wrong, she sounds a lot like Kenneth Williams might do in one of the Carry On Films, which is rather entertaining. What is not so good is when we are in the middle of the Co-Op and she suddenly starts shouting “HELP, HELP!” (more Hey-yelp hey-yelp Penelope Pitstop style) normally when she wants something from a nearby shelf. This gets us some funny looks, I can tell you. I’m really not sure where she has learned that word either as it’s not something we generally say very much in our house – unless a wasp has breached the defences. (I blame Justin).
My favourite, though, is when she says “heart”, which is a bit like I imagine Alf from the Australian soap Home and Away, who may or may not still be in it, would say it – a sort of “haaaaarrt” sound. The strange thing is, she has learned this from the flash cards I do with her when we sit colouring at the dining table, so perhaps, if she is copying me, I do have an accent after all? I remember when the other Aussie soap, Neighbours, first came out in the UK that my friends and I all started speaking with an Australian accent because we thought it was cool. Maybe some of that has stuck with me? Who knew all those teenage years of living vicariously through Scott and Charlene would actually be worthwhile.
Have you got an accent? Do you love it or loathe it?