Friday, August 10, 2007


By local standards Mr Bolan would be considered a well-spoken fellow. Indeed, some Spides might even consider him to be a tad la-di-da. Yet it seems that in sunny Cambridgeshire his accent, with its thick Norn Irish brogueiness, defeats the understanding of many of his co-residents. I have an opinion about this. And this is it.

Certain peoples, and I think that the Southern English are among these peoples, consider themselves to be a cut above. It's not really English unless it is spoken by the worthy people. Accents, of any kind, are unacceptable. They cause the brow to furrow and the eye to glaze. And I think that these people who have such trouble understanding the Irish, the Welsh, the Indian, the Brummie, the Scot, the Chinese, the Geordie, all the Johnny Foreigners are simply being arrogant, up themselves and snobby gets.

I experienced this incomprehension a lot when I visited the deep South. In Mississippi and Louisiana I quickly learned not to ask the white folks for the rest room or directions of any sort. Small Mom and Pop stores were the worst. Those people just didn't understand one word I said. They looked at me with deep suspicion and not a little resentment. Instead I'd ask black women for directions if I needed to find something in a shop or figure out where the toilets where. Those women had not the slightest difficulty understanding our North Antrim accents and were more than willing to help us find our way about.

I've often wondered about it since. Were the white folks, often a minority in the rural areas, a remnant of the worthy people who set the standard on how English should be spoken, the people who shouldn't have to make an effort to understand the way that other, less worthy people spoke, or am I just a paranoid bitch?


Lula Bell said...

In my experience, you are 100% correct.

Mr Bolan said...

I do believe you are right (probably even on the matter that the spides consider me a bit la-di-dah. Or a hippy. Erm...) but I would add one qualification.

The RP lot tend not to be the *worthy* ones, rather the *wannabe* worthy ones, the ones who couldn't afford private school but think they deserve their children to go there. The worst sort of social climber.

I blame the BBC. For most things.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'm having problems in the deep south too, no-one can understand me at all which is starting to become a little annoying as I don't have a thick accent at all. Maybe I'm mumbling.

Nelly said...

Maybe it's just a lack of manners.

It's certainly a form of condescension.

Funny enough, when the sister was at TCD, as were a tremendous lot of other Norn Ironers at that time, no one had any probs with the accent.

But then Dublin hadn't the huge influx of foreign folks that it has now. And that always makes some of the natives restless. And paranoid. And unable to comprehend other ways of speaking.

But surely you guys can all talk Linux or Perl anyway? Who needs English?

Scooter Deb said...

I think the problem with white people in Mississippi is that they don't like ANY outsiders. They're all white trash anyway, so I wouldn't sweat it. :)

I'd say any state east of the Mississippi River, south of Kentucky and north of Florida is full of bad news.

Mudflapgypsy said...

I was a tour guide a long time ago and on only one occasion did someone have a problme understanding me. Considering I slowed way down and pronounced my vowels so as to be understood this flummoxed me. I tried again....nope. One more time, nope. The others in the party ALL understood me. I was at a loss. This woman couldn't understand what I was saying. I even simplified it but it was my "accent" that was the problem. Italians could get it, French as well, an American who supposedly speaks the same language as me? Not a chance.

I shrugged my shoulders and continued.

I still can't quite believe it.

Mind you, I now work with some born and bred in Belfast types who have problems with accents from outside Belfast.

I have only had one problem of this type with a wee man up near Bushmills. I could only make out every 3rd or 4th word. That really threw me.

Ronni said...

I was born in the Midlands, raised in western Canada, and have lived in Texas for over 30 years. In all of that, the only place I have been significantly at a loss when it came to talking was in Gary Indiana, where everyone I met, from my soon-to-be inlaws to clerks in stores just had to tell me how my speech was "weird."

I travelled in Scotland, and had trouble understanding one person. And one elderly lady from south Texas asked, "Yawl wawnt sum ahce in yeh tay?" I had to get her to repeat that several times.