I had a really interesting, albeit strange, conversation yesterday about the way I speak!
My parents always brought me up to speak a bit ‘nicer’ (I use the term loosely) than the way a lot of people in my area speak, so teaching my brother and I that how you speak affects how people react to you, so don’t drop Hs, say your Ts, that kind of thing. I guess I am grateful… but how important is that really?
The way we speak is a reflection more on the way people around us speak. So I suppose I have an estuary English accent but not a ‘rough’ one, is that a fair assessment? Rough is a term I don’t like because I don’t mean it to be insulting. How we speak is not a reflection of the kind of person we are… or it shouldn’t be. It’s just how we speak,right?
I moved out of the area many years ago and I know for a fact that my accent, the words, the phrases change with geographical area. People used to laugh that while I lived in Liverpool my accent took on some odd changes. I know it adopted a kind of sing-songy lilt for a while and it still has it in places if you listen closely. It’s a bit like the way Australians often have an inflexion (no not an infection! Mind you, how it spreads might be like that) in that they tend to go up at the end of sentences.
Then I lived in North Wales and adopted some of their isms! I think once how you speak becomes set as a blueprint from childhood, your accent doesn’t really change that much as an adult, but what people say, the memes, and how they say them (the rhythm of language, something I love) tends to move from person to person like a silent non-harmful virus. We all do it and we don’t think about it, right?
And now I have completed the circle by coming back to Essex, where I meet a lot of people originally from London and it’s a lot more cockney and the things Mum drummed out of us! But why did she do that? Should we not be proud? I kind of like that I take little pieces of the places and the people I meet with me. But am I becoming too Essex? Silly question? It is what I stand accused of, lowering standards. Ouch. Cue argument. And that’s what happened.
When I was told I was letting myself ‘slip’ (yes really) because I was becoming more ‘Essex’ I actually thought it was a joke at first, but a parent did say it to me. Slip? Like the odd cockneyism is descending to a lower standard? Of course not, although this did form the basis of one of those silly arguments yesterday that should never have happened. What caused it? Me asking so what day is March 31st, but I dropped a T in thirty as I said it. I still haven’t found where I dropped it! But really… come on? Maybe it’s on the carpet which is patterned and so you can’t see it? Sorry silly me coming out. But really? Well I live here now! Isn’t that what we wanted?
I moved back here, I date a very Essex guy who uses phrases like ain’t and somethink (ew that one I am not keen on but only because it’s grammatically incorrect!) but that is how people speak here, and it is by no way a reflection of how good or bad a person is, is it?
Having travelled a fair bit and now happy and confident in the person I am, having shed the hang-ups our parents might have given us and become completely comfortable in my own skin, living a successful and happy life, does this stuff really matter? Haven’t I learned that people are people, and that’s what counts? I’d like to think so.
I know a fair bit about accents and voices because I listen a lot and I use it as part of characterisation. It’s what makes us all unique and I certainly don’t see it as a flaw. Yes it can reflect a level of education but even that isn’t always true. But I would tend to use a different language style for people living in certain places and maybe more working class (if that is even politically correct as a term) than say a character who’s a university professor. But actually I like to think in my writing, especially the British novels, that I want to show that we can dispense with these stereotypes and people can surprise you! Who says you can’t have a really cockney university professor? Must be loads of them. Okay so they probably know better than to say ‘somethink’ for something, or maybe that’s hard to lose if that’s how people speak? In fact, part of my mission is dispelling the way reactions come from these stereotypes and scratch just below the surface and people are far more than just the way they speak. We speak one way, but that’s just geography, isn’t it? Haven’t we finally moved away from the archaic BBC accents now. Shouldn’t we embrace where we come from?
So now apparently I speak more Essex. The irony is I came home to be closer to the parents as I felt it was right and I am embracing the new life, but since I am here and this is how people speak, how can I not pick up on some the expressions and phrases? It just happens… it’s not conscious! I said this a lot in the silly argument too! So I say embrace it! All I’d say if that means some of those Ts drop (and I have to say that barely happens, I don’t think the changes are dramatic ones!) then so be it!
That is all. But what do you think?