Posted on February 20, 2011

There is a girl who works behind the bar at The Grey Hound in Broughton who has an accent I just couldn’t get. I am normally quite good at regional accents, but this one was near impossible. It turned out she was from Aberdeen and had an Aberdeen/Grampian accent which is a nothing near Glasgow or even Edinburgh dialect which themselves are poles apart. Glaswegian can in my opinion sound very aggressive, even violent, whilst someone from Edinburgh can sound soft and soothing almost as if though they were trained specifically for Scottish Widows adverts. However, just over the Forth bridge and in to Kirkcaldy where my Mothers family were from, the language is harder and more industrial and it differs still in Inverness and the Western Highlands, so saying someone has a Scottish accent is a bit like saying someone has an English accent.

Across England, regional accents are grouped in to well known sections such as Cockney, Scouse, Geordie, Brummie, Mancunian, Bristolian and Yorkshire, but they actually differ from county to county, town to town and even village to village. Right here in North Hampshire we are in a kind of accent bastardisation region because the towns I have spent most of my living years (Basingstoke and Tadley/Baughurst) have had heavy outside influences in the last fifty years since the second world war. If you talk to any of the Tadley “mushers” whose family are indigenous to the area (Black, James, Rawlings, Nash, Hutchins, Monger) they speak in a totally different accent to the post war new comers whose accent is a mix of Scottish, Welsh, Cockney and Geordie, originating from a mass 1950’s migration to the AWE at Aldermaston that changed the face of the area forever.

Basingstoke suffered a similar shock to the system as what was once a market town in the mould of Alresford, Odiham or Stockbridge was transformed in to a huge architectural disaster in what was known as the Cockney overspill, a re-housing programme for Londoners after the blitz and dereliction of east end slums. The areas of Popley, Oakridge, Buckskin, South Ham and Brighton Hill became home to Cockney slang and hardened Londoners whose presence must have been quite a shock to the simple Hampshire folk from an old market town. I used to work with an old guy from the Fairfields area of Basingstoke and he argued that the day the overspill programme began was the day Basingstoke lost it’s soul forever, and it is quite understandable that he felt that way. If you go to the Basingstoke Cricket ground on the Bounty road you can still get a feel for how Basingstoke once was, as it is still a lovely area if you ignore the skyline beyond it. However, one of my best friends (Toby) was a Popley boy from the overspill, and just because these areas were an architectural mess, it wasn’t really the fault of the people housed there, and on a positive note it has to be said that Basingstoke has developed in to something of a boom town with, until recently, almost full employment.

My own accent is and odd one for people to decipher. If I go to the picturesque village of Broughton (the yocal epicentre of Hampshire where my girlfriend lives) I am a Londoner, yet if I go to London I am a sheep shagger and if I go further afield to America I am, rather bizarrely, an Australian. My father was from Stepney, East London, but essentially he was bought up in Kent and my mother was from Fife but she moved down to Chelsea in West London when she was eighteen and her accent diluted rapidly. Neither of them had an accent of any real dramatic note, so I guess mine became a mix of all the different dialects that had moved in to the area of Tadley and Baughurst.

I think that my accents’ development, or you may say descent, in to a London twang came from spending several years working for city based companies and spending many years around the North London areas of Camden, Islington, Hackney and Muswell Hill where I was recruiting staff from the construction industry who were blessed with an incredible diversity in slang and quick wit that would put most stand up comedy acts to shame. I worked with one lad called Aiden Keane who was a north Londoner of Irish descent whose unemotional razor sharp and observational humour could have your stomach hurting and I must admit to trying emulate him at times, that is perhaps where the London link comes from in my accent, because Aiden was, and probably still is, a great bloke who posessed unassuming wit I have yet to see bettered. Whilst many people have pop stars or footballers as idols, my idol was a actually fat Tottenham supporting plumbing foreman from Crouch End who didn’t even know he was funny.

We all generalise about accents to an extent, Glaswegian is violent, Geordie is cheerful, Brummie downbeat, West country stupid, Cockney dodgy, Yorkshire (stingy) and Scouse (thieving) are the average assessment of the common man about his neighbours. The language of the Scottish borders and Southern Ireland seem to be, along with the Public School (formerly known as BBC) accents, the most attractive in news, media, and advertising circles as our brains are trained in to believing they come from a trustworthy source even if this may not be the case in reality. Huw Edwards (Welsh) reading the news is somewhat of a revelation but I still think we are still a long way off a news reader from the Black country Newcastle or Yorkshire.

What really will annoy some of “I hate Germans” brigade is not so much the regional accents, but the fact that whatever your accent, essentially, it’s roots are of Germanic origin. Still, at least we don’t have a thieving Scouser reading the news yet. Phil Thompson prattling on about Scouse being a  religion on Sky Sports is more than enough thank you.

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