Accents? What are you talkin’ about?

british-english-accentcartooncat-jpgoriginal-copyOliver Kamm, a journalist for The Times, has recently come to the support of Sky News’ Senior Political Correspondent Beth Rigby, who has been criticised due to her regional accent.

Rigby’s accent consists of Estuary English features; a language full of contractions, such as ‘innit’, and g’clippings. Her accent was heavily mocked over social media, with some even stating for her to have “electrocution lessons”. Maybe this commenter ought to have spelling lessons first before trying to make bold statements. Isn’t the media meant to reach out its audiences? This would be more efficient if everyone on the television didn’t have the same monotone voice.

Kamm himself has responded to these comments made upon Rigby’s speech, stating linguistic prejudices should be the least of our worries, especially now in 21st Century Britain. Can we honestly not think of anything else to complain about other than accents? Scholars of sociolinguistics have in fact cleared the air on the ‘problems’ with not pronouncing -ing in some accents – going all the way back to the 1930s, it was actually seen as more refined and a feature of proper pronunciation to not pronounce the single sound appearing on the ends of words, such as wantin’, talkin’ and goin’. Having people in the media with accents similar to each of our own, gives a more relatable feeling as to what has been said. It doesn’t show the information as being untrustworthy or unreliable, but instead gives off a sense of diversity. Accents do not hold positions of intelligence – Beth Rigby still uses standard English in her work, however when read out, it sounds slightly different to those RP newsreaders.

In contrast to this, is the factor of whether or not what has been said, has been understood. Regional accents can be difficult to understand, suggesting why there is a lack of TV personalities or newsreaders with a strong accent. The First Director-General of the BBC, Sir John Reith, believes in spreading “correct” English – so passionately, he established the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English. To Rigby’s critics, her Estuary English accent, is not proper English. Even males with authoritarian positions in politics have diverged their accents; not going to an all boys public school could seriously cause their accent to be mocked (cough cough Tony Blair).

Accents are part of our identity, they make us up as our own key individual. Every English speaker has an accent of their own – so why do we mock? Is it to prove a reflection on correctness, or simply, people don’t have anything better to do.

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