Accents, pictures, and masturbation

Years ago, I asked a British friend of mine why she didn't want to move back to the UK. She explained that her accent left her "marked" and the class barriers were so strong that it limited her career possibilities (ironically, she was unemployed at the time). I've discovered over the past few days that accents are indeed a big deal around here. While I suppose my accent makes the topic more likely to come up, it's distressing to hear folks being branded so strongly just because they sound different.

There is a strong "north/south" divide in the UK and the farther north your accent is from, the more likely you are the get grief for it. In fact, I was chatting with two gentleman yesterday who explained that they went to voice coaches to "improve" their accents. Now I can understand how regional behaviors might grate on folks -- the New York personality is as strong as their accent and not everyone appreciates it (I don't mind) -- but accents? Come on! That's ridiculous. Last night I was hanging out with the tatooed moosipher and while his accidental date was commenting on what a posh accent he had, he was busy adjusting his 8mm nose ring. Yet he's quite a nice guy despite an appearance that would give a few folks pause.

Speaking of his accidental date, he and I got together at a pub named the Pit and Pendulum (very close to the "Man Ho Restaurant") and he met her at the bar and they started chatting. She joined us on a drunken spree between bars when, at one humiliating point, everyone started laughing uproariously at me. I don't recall the exact wording of what I said, but apparently I had volunteered to masturbate on her. She was sitting across the table wanting a cigarette and I volunteered to toss her one. It was quite some time before anyone could explain that the word "toss" must not be bandied about casually. (I might add that I also have a delightful photo of the two of them, but since they were drunk when they said I could post it, I decided I couldn't. Sorry, folks).

And in other news, just south of where I'm staying is:

(Click on the pictures for larger versions)

Pitcher & Piano Pitcher & Piano
If you look closely, you'll notice what appears to be an advertisement on one side, but it's not.
Pitcher & Piano, Front Pitcher & Piano, Front
This is actually an old church which has been converted to a pub.
Victoria Street, looking west. Victoria Street, looking west.
Just a couple of minutes north of where my hotel is and next to the Pit and Pendulum.
Victoria Street, looking east. Victoria Street, looking east.
Just a couple of minutes north of where I'm staying.
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Yes, accents are big here... and you can go 30 miles and get a distinctly different regional accent in many parts of England. Its an old island, and folk didnt used to move around much! Re the North/South divide, it is actually a tad more complex that that. For instance, Scots accents (with perhaps the exception of a "Trainspotting" gutter Glaswegian) are generally held in fairly high regard, whereas the Birmingham (aka 'Brummy') accent is almost universally derided and commonly taken as a sign of low intelligence.

Although its a huge generalisation, regarding the social domination of the so-called "Standard English" (=posh) accent, it can be traced back to a few key factors. 1) People with money have tended to move around rather than stay in one region, which weakens regional accent links. 2) Money also is concentrated in the UK around London and the South East - which provide the basis of the Std Eng accent. 3) Ruling elites also normally send their kids to boarding school, which again removes links with regional accents... 4) People wanting to "get on" will emulate the accents of those in power, and 5) for a long time the BBC (for years the only public broadcaster) would *only* allow the cheesiest upper class accents. It is only in relatively recent times that some regional variation of accent has been allowed or even encouraged.