I was told once that I have a “posh” accent (I’m doing exaggerated finger air quotes). This was said to me by a colleague in a manner that I can only describe as slightly derisive. Before you picture me like this….
…rest assured, I am most decidedly not posh-I just licked marinara sauce off a paper plate soooo….My colleague’s comments were most likely due to the fact that we have quite different accents.
You see, I’m not local to the area that I live in. I currently live in the exact town that the actor Chris O’ Dowd hails from, whereas I’m originally from the area Paddy O’ Brien*, legendary sheep-shearing champion, is from. What do you mean you’ve never heard of him? *grumbles incoherently*
The south. I’m from the south.
For an island as small as Ireland, there is a fairly large diversity of accents. Unfortunately for us, these accents are grossly misrepresented in international cinema. I’m looking at you, Tom “ta bay shure, ta bay shure” Cruise. What many people outside of Ireland don’t know is that there are many different Irish accents, not just one generic “top o’ the mornin'” Oirish accent.
To understand this better, think of the actor Chris O’ Dowd’s accent. Now think of Colin Farrell’s. They’re both Irish yet have quite different accents. If you have ever seen the actor Cillian Murphy (Inception, Batman Begins) speaking with his real accent (he does so in the Irish film The Wind That Shakes The Barley) you will notice that his accent also differs from both O’ Dowd’s and Farrell’s.
O’ Dowd hails from the west of Ireland; a county called Roscommon to be precise (and my current location for all you stalkers out there). Farrell is from Dublin in the east and Murphy is from Cork, down south and not far from where I am originally from. I suppose the most famous celebrity closest to where I’m from is lead singer of The Cranberries, Dolores O’ Riordan. Although there are some similarities in our accents, her’s is much
thicker than mine. Michael Fassbender also has a similar accent to mine, except his is more refined whereas I sound like I might possibly know how to herd cattle (side-note: I do).
I had never really thought about my accent too much until my colleague pointed it out to me that day. My accent would not be hugely different from the local accent, but when I speak for long enough, it’s evident that I’m not local.
I suppose in some ways, it’s what marks me as “different.” When my colleague referred to my accent as “posh”, I had to laugh. That could not be further from the truth. When I get excited or angry, I tend to get very high-pitched and my accent becomes virtually unrecognisable. Jack gets a great kick out of this (he’s from Dublin and our accents differ quite substantially). My students used to get a great kick out of how I pronounce the word “forty.” While the locals here (and most of you, I would bet) pronounce it ‘four-ty’, I really enunciate the ‘r’, so it sounds kind of like ‘faaarrrr-ty’ . *allows you time to snigger*
It did lead me to realise that we really do form opinions on people based on their accents. For example, in Ireland, there is a widely pilloried accent called the “D4” accent which comes from an area of Dublin called Dublin 4. This is a wealthy and affluent area where the accent is notably different from other Dublin accents. It is definitely heavily influenced from both English and American accents and I suppose you could consider it the Irish equivalent to the Californian “Valley Girl” accent. It is hugely unpopular with many people outside of Dublin 4, who view it as pretentious and false.
I actually had a dear friend with this accent years ago. She was kind, caring and fun. Whenever she came to visit me though, it was clear that everyone we met viewed her with scorn and disdain. Actually, people hated her. She later got a job in Cork and told me that her boss frequently told her that her accent was awful and that he hated hearing her speak. He would also pass comments like “oh, did Daddy buy that for you?” even though she was as far from a spoiled princess as you could imagine. Despite the fact that she was one of the sweetest people I have ever know, many people had a prejudged stereotype of her as some shallow and selfish person and refused to get to know her on a personal level. That is utterly ridiculous to me, but I have known several people who have felt prejudged, based on their accent.We are all guilty of making false assumptions about someone based on their accent.
To be fair, we are all possibly a little guilty of making assumptions about a person based on the way they speak. Someone with a ‘posh’ accent may be judged as cold or aloof. Someone with a more ‘common’ accent may be judged as unsophisticated or ignorant. Of course these are ridiculous stereotypes, but they do exist.
Why don’t you come and tell me about your accent because when I read your comments, I usually put on a robot voice and it’s getting very old very fast. I’ll just sit here saying ‘potato’ over and over.
Psst! C’mere! If you happen to be on Twitter, you can follow me here. I once made Wil Wheaton laugh, which will be my claim to fame for a hundred years. I will totally follow you back too, because I’m so nice.
*… he probably exists, anyway.