Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Why we shouldn't get upset about accents, broadly speaking

Brogue female: Nadine Coyle has defended her accent
Brogue female: Nadine Coyle has defended her accent

I was born and raised in Derry and I can't really change the way I talk." Words of wisdom from Nadine Coyle which went straight to my heart as I, too, was born and raised in Derry, albeit the culchie southern part of the county which in some books makes my accent even more indecipherable.

Like Nadine, I have experienced a fair amount of ribbing over my broad pronunciation of certain words and rapid delivery of vocabulary. I have also had total communication breakdowns with people who, in theory, I share a mother tongue with, but who can't make out a word I say.

My first experience of bringing the south Derry twang to a wider audience was when I went to the Channel Islands at the age of 18 to get a summer job working in a cafe.

Guernsey, as an English-speaking part of the world, seemed an ideal place to go. But problems soon emerged when I was doing the till, particularly the flat way I said 'eight' and 'three' to the flummox of countless customers. I refused to refine my eights to 'aight' and the problems continued.

And later there was a trip to Florida with a bunch of UK journalists – 10 insufferable showbiz writers from London and two ordinary 'regionals' – me and a reporter from Newcastle upon Tyne.

Ironically, our American hosts had no problems at all with my accent but the Londoners were a different story. The Toon Towner and I felt like aliens and bonded over how no one could understand us northerners.

One brave night, I made an effort to try and speak to one of the snazzy journos. As I droned on, she stared at me with her mouth hanging open for about 30 seconds before interrupting with: "I don't know what you're saying, I'm not having this conversation", and turning on her heel. To say I felt humiliated was an understatement. Even 10 years later, I'm still stung by her incredible rudeness.

So I really identified with our Nadine when she appeared on the Jonathan Ross Show and the host pretended he couldn't understand a word. The singer laughed it off but she must have been thoroughly fed up.

Of course, it's not just people from a different country who find me broad. Plenty of 'Belfasties' have had fun at my expense, no less than my husband who loves to mock me when I say someone's on the "fowan" (telephone) or has been displaying "vile-ent" tendencies.

It would be easy during communication crises to dilute my accent. I have at times knocked the edges off to help the flow of conversation. When I say knock the edges off, I mean I slow down a bit and cut back on my regular use of culchie-isms and Norn Iron-isms. But I never change my pronunciations, because like Nadine, that's just the way I talk.

I had a realisation one night when I attended a poetry reading by Seamus Heaney, a fellow broad talker, at Queen's. His accent, pure south Derry, sounded epic as he read aloud some of his own work. I realised how lucky I am that such beautiful poetry was written to be read at its very best in my own particular accent. Now that's special.

So as Nadine said recently: "Worry about your own accent. Never you worry about how other people talk."

She's right, of course, because to hide your natural accent is to hide where you come from. And besides, if you think my accent sounds funny, you should hear how yours sounds to me.

Carol's charity effort just pants

There are two types of Ice Bucket Challengers in this world – ordinary folk having a bit of fun raising money and celebrities driven by a bit of vanity.

Take Carol Vorderman who allowed herself, in the name of charidee, to be doused in 2,000 litres of icy water.

Now Carol is a woman of enough intelligence to know that when you're about about to be soaked, the white dress you chose to wear is about to go see-through.

And the black knickers underneath will be on show in no time.

One wonders why she bothered to get dressed that day at all.

Simon weighs up Cheryl again

Just when Simon Cowell seemed to have earned forgiveness from his wee pet Cheryl, he digs himself a brand new hole.

Talking about how the pair fell out a few years ago after he sacked the singer from X Factor America, he lambasted her "totally crazy" purple/orange outfit and towering hair.

No, he didn't stop there.

Apparently poor Cheryl had also committed the crime of piling on some weight.

Ouch.

With the pair back together on the UK's X Factor this weekend, I suggest all eyes should be on Simon's very high waistline.

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