St Helens Speak

I remember the first time I heard my own voice on a recording and I was like..’Uh, who’s that then!?’ (It totally didn’t match the voice I’d been hearing in my head all my life, see.)
‘It’s you’.
‘Whaaaaat?’, I squirmed. ‘That’s…actually……me?’ How did my brain  process the words flying out my motormouth so fast and why did I keep saying ‘luv’ all of the time and forgetting to say ‘the’ and why were most of my vowel sounds missing too. (A bit like this -“Am goin’ shop luv, d’ya want ewt?” –but really fast).
I mean, did I actually sound like that all of the time? ( I did, and still do apparently, my hubby reassures me). ‘But I sound awful. I wished I’d never heard myself now’, I cringed, with the similar feeling of regret I experience after scoffing a KFC zinger tower meal. And from the moment I became aware of my own accent, I’ve been aware that people from other parts sometimes like to take the piss out of it.
There’s no denying that my accent is unique. Only a fortnight ago, I was holidaying in Portugal when I was approached at a bar- “You from Sintellins luv?” said a fellow Sintelliner. I hadn’t even had chance to unpack my Saints shirt. We chinked drinks and bonded immediately and spoke Sintellins-speak all night and everyone around us probably assumed we were foreign.
It’s a fact though: people identify with their own kind. I can remember being 18 (just) and applying to go to University. My parents wanted me to aim high, but didn’t that equate to talking posh? Seriously, I was a fast thinker. I didn’t have the patience to pronouce all of my words correctly. It would take me just forever to get to the end of my tale.
Anyway. My grades soon seen to it that I didn’t need to worry about going to university alongside people that sounded like cast members of Made in Chelsea? But it didn’t matter.
Accentism is everywhere, it seems. I had barely got through my first foam party in Freshers week at a local University when someone in some faculty t-shirt from one of the Uni’s societys covered his smile and said somethig like “Do you know what -I’d just love to have an accent”. He failed to state that he wanted one like mine, of course, just that he’d noticed, clearly, that I had a strong one. It sounded like he taking the piss. Which he might have been, of course, as this was soon followed up in my first seminar by another gang who imitated each line of my conversation, trying to mimic my omission of vowel sounds… ‘Hey Mel…am just goin shop, d’ya want ewt? Whah, you need sum shampoo foryour urrrhh’.

I embraced the mockery. It showed I had individuality. (A long discussion about ‘chip butties’ followed and whether we had our chips on barms, buns, bread-cakes, buns or rolls). I liked that I had something identifiable about me and I was proud of my roots. My mum and dad were of the generation that spoke with a lancashire dialect, so if the Uni lot thought my accent was strong, they’d clearly never heard anyone like my folks (They got the ‘buz’ to the ‘ospickle’ and put the ‘keckle’ on). So what if I was the ony one in class that pronounced ‘Bolton’ as ‘Bulton’ (it never did Vernon Kay any harm in hs career)?  I finished University with a decent degree, and returned to my hometown free to speak with dropped ‘h’s and missing vowels to my hearts content without fear of being judged by anyone.
The problem was, it could be a tad restricting. For example, in my home town of St Helens, if someone calls you ‘cock’ it’s a term of endearment. I doubt it would go down quite as well if you relocated to an office down south and addressed one of your boss with the same word. I’ve also found that my communications with others around the country throughout my career has been a bit like trying to find out information using Siri and Isometimes  have to repeat myself. A bit like this:
(Me: “Siri, where can I get summat nice to eat in Southport?
Siri replies with- “Here’s some links to Summit House Support?”
Erm, not quite what I was looking for. I try somewhere else.
“Siri, where can get summat nice to eat in Leigh?” Siri replies with- “This is what I found on the web for ‘Summat to Ate’ restaurant in Hindley”.
Hmmm. Ok. Nevermind.

So,  what I’m saying is,  my accent has remained put: I like it and I’m proud of it. It signisifies where I’m from and I’m proud of my town.

I just sometimes have to try and smooth the edges of my accent a little when comunicating with peeps that are not Sintellins born. It helps the communication to flow better.
And sometimes, of course, when I don’t want to communciate with someone at all, I find it helps to crank it up a notch. Like when a nuisance’fake’ caller from Microsoft or somewhere eventually hangs up on me because they can’t understand a single word I say.
Then, it feels like karma.




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