The title ‘eh?’ has come about because that’s what I usually say to my colleague John, from Liverpool, who suggested the topic. His thick and fast accent leaves me bewildered at best and as much as I try, my open book facial expressions leave him in no doubt that I haven’t got a clue what he just said, giving me no other option but to ask him, clearly not so eloquently, (eh?) to repeat. At which point he usually says something to take the mickey out of me, and I guess we just go back to the start and repeat.
Accents – everybody has one and all of them and us are different.
Having spoken to a few people on the subject (note: this is clearly not a statistically valid sample – actually is was 3 of us chatting on the train over a beer) – accents mean more than just what relays through your ears.
We are more comfortable with those who have the same accent. Some people have the perception that others are prejudice against those who have a different accent. People with a well spoken, or ‘posh’ accent, are deemed to be rich, well educated and out of touch with the real world of hardship. Those with an extremely different accent such as those from ‘up north’ are not deemed the same. Quite the opposite in fact and those people with a posh accent are often the ones who deem them so.
Basing your assumptions on class is an interesting one for me, because, well, does it really matter? If you need to do business with someone the only thing that matters is whether you can communicate and whether you trust them. Giving people half a chance to establish themselves before you write them off for opening their mouths is a sure fire winner to making some great friends, even if you have to say ‘eh?’ or ‘what?’ lots of times.
Personally, I honestly find some accents grinding, like nails down a blackboard, but would it make me not do business with them? would I assume they were lower or upper class because of it? No. I do not have a posh voice, I am not well educated and nor am I upper class, but I am clever enough to know that that would be just dumb and very, very rude.
A number of accents come at us through the media:
- Sometimes they evoke emotion such as the lady from the marks and spencer adverts who sexily and sultrily describes a chocolate pudding and other delicious food that makes you literally drool in front of the TV
- Sports commentators can be stuffs of legends, especially those whose voices have for many years been giving us updates or their view on motor racing, golf, football etc. and whose enthusiasm is infectious
- News reporters with their gravitas giving reports on world events, live and witness history with you every day
- Sometimes the soothing sounds of the man from radio 4 help my friends get off to sleep
My own accent is a Heinz 57 – a mixture, from the south, south east, and south west of England, which is based on where I have lived. My mum’s voice is northern and my dad’s is from London so my reference point is anywhere on the compass point really.
The accent and voice I love the best is that of my other half. Now I’m not usually one for overt and gratuitous glorification of one’s boyfriend, but credit must be given where it’s due. His voice is like hot chocolate on a cold day, freshly clean sheets or sinking into a hot bath full of bubbles. He could read the dictionary or even the ingredients list on the back of a packet of sausages and I’d never get bored.