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U3A Writing: Accents

Brenda Hellawell discovers that her accent identifies her as being from a specific town.

Recently the subject of accents has come to my mind. I never thought much about having a local accent. In fact I thought, with my work connections and travel, that I hadn’t much of one.

I remember in my teens being on a train to London and asked if I came from Manchester. At the time I thought Manchester was fairly near.

It seems only fairly recent that regional accents have become acceptable. Many professionals, such as actors, newsreaders and politicians, used to have coaching to eliminate regional accents and just speak clear Queen’s English.

I have always found accents interesting. At 19 my family and I were on holiday in Torquay when we met an old Devonian. He had such a strong accent that only my mother managed to understand him.

There are some regional accents, such as Scouse, Geordie and Glaswegian, which can be difficult to follow. Although I have always enjoyed the TV series ‘Taggart’, there have been times when some of the accents have been difficult to understand.

One of the accents which I always like to hear is the Edinburgh accent when I phone the Royal Mail there.

Some people never lose their accent wherever they live. I had a childhood friend called Kathleen Brown. The older members, who were born in Scotland, never lost their regional accent.

The accents of people from other countries when speaking English are often different from ours. For many years I had a Swedish pen-friend. Although he had learnt English from a man from Morley and sounded similar to our accent, he still had a certain nasal quality not local.

In my work, before retirement, I frequently had to phone Oxford and London, and I used to dread it. The reason was that people on the phone in those places rarely had English as a first language. I couldn’t understand them and had to ask to speak to someone in higher authority.

The clearest accents came from Inverness.

I must admit that some of the East Europeans now working in some of our hotels speak good English, and their accents are very good. It is sometimes the use of words rather than accent which reveals their nationality.

Personally, I always liked the accent of Sacha Distell when he spoke or sang in English.

My local accent must have strengthened since my retirement. At the end of June I was in St. Ives, talking to a lady from Salisbury. When a couple nearby got up, the man said, “What part of Huddersfield do you come from?”
To which I replied, “Lindley.” He then asked which part of Lindley. He lives in Holmfirth and is in the Colne Valley Male Voice Choir.

I was further astounded on September 4th. There were some businessmen who had come to my hotel in Pitlochry. When I was going to breakfast, two of them said, “Good morning – nice morning.”

I replied that it looked like being a good day.

One of them said, “You came from Huddersfield, didn’t you?”

I was surprised. “How do you know?”

He said he had connections with Wakefield. I hadn’t realized I had such a distinctive accent. It is as well that I behave myself on holiday.


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