Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Posh gits

I have a very posh English voice. Not sure why. As a child, I never lived in posh areas, and my parents never sounded posh. Probably it comes from attending a pseudo-posh boarding school for pretentious middle-class twits, or rather their pretentious middle-class parents.

Whether my posh voice is an advantage or a liability, I've never quite decided. Sometimes with trades people and shop assistants and call centre staff it seems to get me more respect and better service. And they often call me sir, which is ridiculous but it seems pedantic to object.

At other times it probably gets me worse service because people promptly nail me as a snooty English git and give me the minimum respect and service they can get away with. Of course I'm assuming that because they'd never openly admit it. But anti-English sentiments often lurk under polite Northern Irish exteriors.

The stereotype isn't entirely false either. The English can be very snooty indeed if it suits them. They whine and whinge about everything and customer service is never quite good enough for them. Whereas the locals tend to be more laid back and more inclined to adjust to a situation than complain. But I digress....

I've never had any wish to change my voice. I know some people find a posh tone embarrassing and they deliberately change it to something more ordinary like Estuary English or a regional accent. But my voice doesn't bother me, I think partly because I like it, partly because I'm so used to it and partly because I don't have to listen to it. To me it's just a sort of bland vibration inside my head.

But I do object to the surfeit of oily posh voices on TV, and the lack of shall-we-say vocal diversity. When do you hear any alternative accent, be it regional, ethnic, cockney or whatever? Not often. Which is a shame because there are some wonderful accents out there. Starting with Irish and Northern Irish.

So that's abart it, guv. Nuffink more to tell yer. Gawd bless.


  1. I speak English like most English medium school students speak and whenever I was in the UK, many would be quite taken aback to hear my accent and diction. That was because, I was expected to be from Southall or Sheffield and not from India!

    In Indian languages while there are regional differences in the accent and tone, it does not get the kind of responses that one would get in the UK. They are heard for the novelty value with a smile perhaps but no one would go out of the way to treat one with a different accent differently.

  2. Ramana: Yes, I bet people were surprised you spoke English so perfectly! They expect lots of "funny accents" and "funny turns of phrase". Good to know that Indian regional accents are not treated with the same condescension as regional accents in the UK.

  3. So true about all those highly polished voices on TV - I wonder if the BBC news presenters sound the same when the cameras stop rolling.
    I too like to hear a variety of accents, and there's no shortage of them at university that's for sure.
    I do admit to struggling with some, particularly a thick Welsh accent or Glaswegian.
    Mind you, other Scottish accents can be quite pleasing - Amy MacDonald makes me go weak at the knees when she talks!

  4. When you live in America and have a Southern accent, people assume you're stupid.

    I was terribly ashamed of my accent when I was younger, but I gave that up as I got older. Mostly.

  5. Dave: I wonder? Perhaps they leave the studio saying "Gor blimey, that was a flippin' carve-up an' all."

    I also struggle with some Welsh and Glaswegian accents. It's a bit like learning a foreign language - your ear has to "tune in" to it.

    Jennifer: Yes, I'd noticed that attitude towards Southerners. Funny how people always have to find something "inferior" to look down on.

  6. Do you never watch Eastenders or Corrie :-) I know, you are speaking about newsy type programmes aren't you?! But there is Janet Street-Porter... and Phil Tufnel talking about Art is a joy!
    Meanwhile, I am genuine Estuary... so much so that I can tell the difference between north and south estuary. These days, if I concentrate I can tone it down, but if I get over excited about something it bubbles up and this seems to make people laugh.

  7. Scarlet: Oh yes, I know there's a sprinkling of people with different accents like Janet Street Porter (I love her voice) and the Eastenders crowd, but very much the exception to the rule, I would say. Funny, I never pictured you as Estuary English. Oddly enough, Jenny is posh English but her sister is totally Estuary!

  8. I love regional accents but to be honest I really adore beautiful English speaking voices
    Helen Mirren, maggie smith, Miriam margoles jeremy irons etc

  9. John: I love most accents myself. They all have a distinctive character. I can't think of an accent I loathe. But my mother absolutely hates the cockney accent. And probably Estuary as well.

  10. I'm with John Gray on this. I love a sweet musical Welsh accent: Think Anthony Hopkins or Richard Burton and a Durham accent can go right to the core of my heart.

    Nowadays when I go back to Dublin, I find the local accent rather flat and grating... don't tell my relations!

  11. I lost my Scots accent when we moved to the south when I was young....though when I lived in France French friends said they could detect Scots undertones in my French rather than English ones...and now in Costa Rica they tell me I speak Spanish like a Frenchwoman...

    I'm told disapprovingly that in English I sound like Princess Anne - though whether that is the accent or the use of language is another matter...

    I must try to find Phil Tufnel on art...

  12. LOLOL!!!
    love it.
    but don't look at me for any coherent comment.
    the americans supposedly haven't spoken English for years! LOL.

    I love the british accent.
    all the different ones in downton abbey.
    oh my.
    do you sound like lord granthem?
    you DO/DID watch downton abbey I hope!
    we couldn't get enough of it over here.
    apparently i'm not the only anglophile on these shores.
    I'm sure I have the accent of the southwestern american.
    but mine is a mixture of growing up in the northeast and the deep south... and then the west.
    what a conglomeration!
    my grandfather in new york was from boston originally ...
    and he pocked his caw! no r's pronounced.
    I hope though... mine is more articulate than some that they are always seeming to interview on television... the hillbilly factor.
    I can do a pretty good british imitation if I have to! well...
    in my head I think it is anyway.
    you would probably FLINCH! :)

  13. I must say, I love British and Welsh accents too, especially Welsh for some reason. :)

  14. I too am the product of a well known 'public school', and no doubt speak with a similar received pronunciation accent. However, I am always understood whereas occasionally I cannot understand others. Even the broadest of Glaswegians will understand perfectly what I am saying. I'm not sure if this is an advantage or not!

  15. Grannymar: Clearly we all have our favourite accents. I also find the Dublin accent a bit flat, but grating? I've never noticed that.

    Helen: Princess Anne? Goodness me. Super posh! Speaking Spanish like a Frenchwoman? Ze mind, how you say, boggles....

  16. Tammy: I'm the other way round, I seldom watch or read anything British because it's all too familiar. I prefer American novels and Scandinavian TV series. I loathe historical dramas and I've never watched Downton Abbey! But I thought the English guy in The West Wing (Lord Marbury) was hilarious!

    I'd love to hear your faux English!

    Jean: By British, I assume you mean English? Or is that Scottish and Irish as well?

  17. Cro: I'm always understood as well. But I still struggle with some Northern Irish accents, even though I've been here 16 years. Some of them are very different from English.

  18. I went to bed last night and this post was on my mind, I couldn't get to sleep so instead of counting sheep I instead counted presenters with regional accents. There were quite a few, so I surmised that Nick obviously doesn't watch the telly box, which you have confirmed above!

  19. Eee lad, tha's nowt wrong wi reet folk tha knows!

  20. Scarlet: Sorry I kept you awake! I watch the telly occasionally (mainly Scandi drama), but not the regional programmes, except for Northern Ireland obviously. But I imagine the regional voices are still heavily outnumbered by the Dimblebys, Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil and all the rest.

    Keith: Eee bar gum, yer dont arf speak foony, yoong fella me lad.

  21. Scarlet: Okay, I bow to your greater telly familiarity!

  22. Actually, old bean, I originate from Winchester, an absolutely spiffing place, where we talk awfully posh.

  23. I love the variant of the Newfoundland dialect where I live. Full of Devon combined with Irish and very colourful. "Whatareyaat?" covers a multitude, curiosity, interest, caring. Never been much for the posh, lacks an intimacy of language to my ear. Always loved the norn Irish, though and the soft Connemara mixed with Gaeilge.


  24. Keith: By jove, old chap, I had no idea. Nice place Winchester, subject to a lot of flooding though.

    www: Very similar to the standard NI greeting "Howyerdoing?". I agree, posh English is very bland and characterless. I prefer something more textured, something with a few rough edges.

  25. Sorry, Nick. As an aside, why do I have fallen into habit of apologizing to you even if and when I say something innocuous? I am sure there is an answer. One of little interest.

    Yes, so, sorry, Nick, but you can't have a VERY posh accent as you claim. Either it's posh or it isn't. Trust me. I am a foreigner. And as so many British have confirmed to me the "foreigner" will pick up upon that which eludes the aborigine.

    The trick is to converse posh with the posh and peasant with the peasant. Two people in my life, my father and my son, have this down to an art. Their ability to stoop to either the highest or lowest denominator in order to make the other comfortable is extraordinary. Myself? I am shite at accents. I don't have the ear. I can barely make out anything anyone say unless they speak "posh" or are from Scotland.

    Other than that, Ramana's English accent is perfect. As indeed is that of many Americans.


  26. I have no idea what the different British accents is, so I can't really comment on that. My American English was formed in New England and California where I learned to speak, but tempered by many years in the South and also a year away in a Swiss boarding school. All that makes me a bit of a chameleon - I tend to shift my accent without trying to to align more with the person I'm having a conversation with.

  27. Agent: I suspect you'd have a job imitating my accent, if you're not very familiar with British accents! Though maybe if you think of the typical BBC newsreader....

    I find myself unconsciously changing my accent sometimes. It can be embarrassing if the other person thinks I'm trying to parody them or make fun of them. I slip into Aussie very easily.

  28. *are

    My boarding school had mostly British teachers, so I guess that's what I hear in my head.

    You should hear me go Appalachian!

  29. Agent: Well, if you had British teachers, you must be familiar with the accent! I just watched a video on Appalachian English - it was a lot of fun. That fabulous drawly accent - almost Australian! And I love all their local words, like si-gogglin (of a building where everything's out of line).