Think you don’t have an Accent? Think Again!

A recent poll in The Independent newspaper revealed that the British accent is the most popular in the world.

This is an odd piece of news. For a start, who is to say what, exactly a British accent is? There are many. There is Geordie, West Country, Scottish, Brummie, Northern Irish, Kentish, Cockney, Liverpudlian, Welsh, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Home Counties and many more besides…

Within the areas there are also differences in accent. A trip around Scotland, Yorkshire or Birmingham would expose a plethora of differing sounds in words.

Presumably the ‘British’ accent of the study is ‘BBC’ style, although even in an organisation as large as this there have been attempts in recent years to get regional accents on to the airwaves rather than the plummy tones of yesteryear.

While it is surprising to learn that the French accent is less of a draw, it is no real shock that the Queen’s English is admired around the world. Many years ago I undertook a road trip along the West of the USA with a friend-my first jaunt to America and one that I considered intrepid, given that I would be driving an automatic car on vast freeways and attempting to join the LA traffic and cliff-hangers of San Francisco.

Part of our home made itinerary took in a trip to Las Vegas, which involved travelling across the desert. We’d scheduled in stops, one of which was at Victorville, a kind of truck stop on Route 66. We’d found a hotel [on our budget we were confined to the cheaper chains], dumped the bags but at that point, although we’d driven all day in sweaty heat, a beer seemed more compelling than a shower.

We found a simple, no frills bar which was occupied mainly with workers, mainly male, enjoying a drink after their day’s labours. The arrival of two English women provoked enormous interest, so much that we were unable to buy our own beers and were interrogated on every aspect of our personas and our trip. This, incidentally included a query as to whether we met the age criterion for alcohol [most flattering, since I was 40 at the time]. The flattery continued. ‘Ah luuuurv yer aaahccent!’ one of the admirers drawled. This threw me. Having moved about the country quite a bit throughout childhood I consider myself accent-less. ‘I don’t have have an accent, you do!’ I replied.

Every country, of course has regional accents but you have to be well versed in another language to recognise them. After many years of regular trips to France I still struggle to understand the Southern French tones, and even here in my own homely island much that is spoken with a Scottish twang escapes me-notably post match inquests from football managers etc

I don’t really have a ‘favourite’ although I must confess to there being one or two I really do not like. What are they? Not saying! What’s your favourite?

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                I’m not sure of the exact meaning of ‘broadening’ the mind, but if it has something to do with stuffing facts, experience, skills and knowledge into it then it must be true that travel does this. But to learn anything by travelling I don’t feel it is necessarily a requirement to trek into the Antarctic, to climb Everest, canoe up the Amazon or swim with dolphins in Florida. While it is desirable to wander far and wide, I think it is entirely possible to broaden the mind with a simple stroll around the block, whether your neighbourhood is a suburban housing estate or the village green. All you need is to be naturally nosy and have voyeuristic tendencies.

                To wander an area on foot, wherever it is, presents a multitude of questions. Who lives here? How do they earn a living? What do they do in the evenings? How do they travel? What kind of tastes do they have? Where did they get their kitchen units? Do they garden? What do they grow? What on earth made them choose to paint the front door cerise? Why do they have net curtains? Why don’t they have net curtains?

                It is helpful to anyone wishing to pry if the subjects have neglected to pull the curtains and left all the lights on. I love this. I especially love the basements of residential London streets, where they may have converted the space into a kitchen or a living area or a playroom, a library or a dungeon.

                We have travelled more ‘on our own doorstep’ here in the UK than in any year I can remember since I was a child. This is in part due to family events, of which there seem to have been many and divers, and also due to the summer weather, the first for many years not to be beset with rain, wind and low temperatures. We have visited all four parts of The British Isles.

                The British countryside is beautiful. The trees, especially are graceful, majestic giants in full leaf and laden with their seeds or fruits.

                We are in the Yorkshire dales in the aftermath of a family gathering; staying on the periphery of a small market town, where many of the homes’ entrances open directly on to the street, their windows allowing plenty of nosing to take place. As we walk I conduct a casual survey of the inhabitants’ attitudes to tourists’ prying eyes. Many have wisely installed blinds or net curtains, but some provide ready-made interest in the form of a display; shelves of antique toys, a beautiful plant, a revolving glass mobile, a partly written love poem in an ancient type writer.

                The spell has broken and it is raining, reverting to summer as we have come to know it. In a couple of weeks school will be in and it will be time to head south in search of warm weather without the hoards. Next month, Southern Europe. Santé!