Sunday, 22 June 2014

Back to routine speech

Two days back in England - I'm in Wiltshire, at Coombe Bissett - and my cherished melodic Welsh accent has gone. I'm back to my ordinary way of speaking.

I regret this. My ordinary accent is a hybrid of all the linguistic influences on me since birth, but chiefly the way Dad spoke - so it's a bit BBC Radio 4. There's nothing wrong with that; I think the way I speak is clear, and gets my meaning across. And I don't think it irritates or confuses people. I have plenty of evidence that when I float words at people, they like what they hear and feel inclined to talk with me - and assist me. Can one reasonably hope for more? Well, yes. I'd like to charm them as well, with a lovely Welsh voice. I had it for over two weeks while in Wales. But now it's vanished - until the next time I go there. What a shame! My regular Sussex voice seems so unexciting.

It's easy for me to re-acquire a Welsh accent every time I visit Wales because it was my Mum's accent and it's always there, just underneath Dad's more dominant Devon-London accent. Put me in the correct environment and out it comes, quite naturally.

But I can't do other accents. I'm rubbish at putting on some other regional accent of Britain. So while up in Scotland, say, the locals must make do with my bog-standard Mid-Sussex delivery. Fortunately it seems to be understood everywhere.

I admit to envying people with attractive regional accents. Without one, I feel diminished, a person of lesser character, someone with the speech habits of an educated Civil Servant. Sigh. I am sure that as soon as I open my mouth, I win the attention and support of any National Trust member, which is no doubt useful in some circumstances. But among the sort of folk that most would describe as 'hard-working salt of the earth types' my half-posh syllables make no impact, and may arouse only suspicion.

It isn't enough to be polite, or to have the right message to convey. People will only take you seriously if you speak to them in their own accent. I do not know why so many politicians ignore this obvious truth...although the notion of David Cameron or Ed Miliband making 'Better Together' speeches in broad Scots as the Scottish Independence Referendum approaches is a trifle amusing! As would be Boris Johnson doing a Scouse accent in Liverpool, in a bid to win back the hearts and minds of Merseyside people. I really can't see it being well-received, can you?


  1. Lucy it is so interesting to hear you talk about absorbing and using a Welsh accent. Several years ago we visited Britain (from rural Canada) and traveled about England for three weeks, then spent less than a week in Scotland. Within two days I started rolling my r's and had a brogue! My paternal grandmother was Scots. Amazing isn't it?!

    Have you considered that the Welsh accent might have had something to do with the interest of your "Lloyd George" man?? :-) lol. But seriously, you know it is your amazing personality coming through that is creating the male interest!

  2. I would say that there is a universal urge with normal people to feel at one with the local population, to be accepted and not be treated as an outsider. An unconscious tendency to speak like them is part of this. All the more so when you and your mother were born in the country concerned, so that slipping into a version of the local accent seems perfectly appropriate, even a birthright.

    Apparently part of the extraordinary appeal Lloyd George had lay in his forthright, passionate Welshness. The chappie who took a shine to me in the country house courtyard clearly did see himself as a latter-day Lloyd George! He was very charming.


  3. ' As would be Boris Johnson doing a Scouse accent in Liverpool, in a bid to win back the hearts and minds of Merseyside people. I really can't see it being well-received, can you? '!
    It must be your charm that wins people over Lucy, not your accent. I haven't an ounce of Welsh in me but I do have Scottish blood as my paternal grandfather was a Scotsman and there is Scottish blood on my mother's side too. It may come as a surprise that most folk tend to mimic the local accent wherever they are. That may be because they want to fit in and be accepted but it does tend to be difficult not to gain a local accent wherever you are. They say that mimicry is a form of respect for the person you are copying.

    Shirley Anne x


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