Share this page

Small ads

Has my Yorkshire grit held me back? I'll 'appen that's it

From a recent piece in The Times by writer Mark Piggott who grew up in Hebden Bridge

Wazzocks. That was my first reaction on reading that my fellow Brits are likely to think of me as less intelligent than southerners due to my strong Yorkshire accent. Researchers at Northumbria University say that "accentism" is doing serious social, economic and educational harm to people like me.

As someone who has lived in London since 1985 and whose accent still sounds like my hero Compo, the survey confirms what I have long suspected: that the sole reason I have so far failed to shine as an author and journalist is down to the fact I still pronounce "couldn't" as "coon't". Which sounds even ruder spoken out loud during a Teams meeting with the chief executive.

In fact, like most northern exiles I have long since toned down my Humber-broad vowels in the hope of making myself understood or to avoid being judged an idiot. As for the idea of making an accent a protected characteristic, I look forward to the day someone asks me where the whippets are and I can have them imprisoned. Not because I'm a snowflake, mind - just because it's such a bad joke.

When I look back on a lifetime of misunderstandings in the capital, though, I do wonder if it's entirely fair to place all the blame on my accent. A pint of Stella can still strip away all the layers of sophistication as well as my liver and render me incomprehensible.

In some ways, sounding like Geoffrey Boycott and Nora Batty's lovechild has worked in my favour. People tend to assume I grew up in a two-up, two-down and spent much of my youth on the dole. Happily, this assumption is correct and has several times helped me with TV and radio appearances based less on what I have to say and more on how I say it.

I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who said it is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without some other Englishman hating him, and that's certainly true in my case. But the more I think about it, the more likely it seems that the reason I've got into so many scrapes and been such a failure has less to do with what comes out of my mouth and more with what goes in.

Besides, I'm just as biased when it comes to accents. Today I fly to Gothenburg and if the pilot sounds like a Geordie or, worse, a Scouser, I'll be thinking of getting off. There are some occasions when only good old RP will do.


Some comments in response to the article

Give over ye daft apeth.

Wrong side of the hills - that's what grandma Wigan used to say.

I've never heard that in Yorkshire

Of course its true. Listen to Nadine and Jacob, they have lovely, refined accents and are totally incompetent but bah gum they ain't arf successful at conning a few thousand people to put them in t' parliament.

Yorkshire tea surely?

You were lucky! Now't wrong wi' Tetleys.

Tetleys? Luxury. Wet mud is what we 'ad to drink.

My London-born mum had that affectation but on the telephone. Off the phone she was pure London sounding, on the phone she was pure la-di-da. When I used to pull her leg about it she would flatly deny that she sounded any different!

For goodness sake... it's not "I'll 'appen...'. (Headline) It's not a verb.
The answer may be simply "Appen that's it."
But most likely, the response to such a question would just be 'Appen.

"Appen as maybe" is understandable.
"I'll 'appen "is meaningless drivel .

Or 'Appen as like. '

"I'll 'appen that's it" does not make any sense and is not a phrase used in Yorkshire. Happen in this context means perhaps, so you might say "happen that's it'.

Eee by gum, twas a reet good read that...

I've never heard ee by gum said in Yorkshire

The same in the US. Folks who live in the North speak fast and to the point. Down South the speech is s-l-o-w-e-r with colourful descriptions and often confused with ignorance by non-Southerners.

I have occasionally wondered what the 'gum' is in 'ee ba gum'.

It is "god". That is a fine example of a minced oath, just like "gosh" and "blooming heck".

The answer to "accentism" is not elocution lessons to homogenise speech into the kind of bogus upper class whine that made listening to Mrs Thatcher such a trial. Rather it is to speak clearly and sensibly in the accent your background gave you, and ignore the snobs

The 'Professional Northerner', especially from Yorkshire, has been a successful persona for many, suggesting a no-nonsense, common sense approach. Those supposed virtues have been exploited by many in journalism and the wider media, including some notable Times columnists.

There is both a beauty and an economy of language when "could you tell me your location, please?" can be replaced with "wirratha?"

When at university in the late seventies I was told by the career adviser that I'd never get a job in the city because of my Yorkshire accent. I chose to ignore this ridiculous advice.

Still laughing, cracking article. As for Northumbria University - thy's tapped.

I too moved South for my career increasing the IQ of the South in the process. Sadly for the South I have now returned North consequently degrading their IQ.