Awesome English Accents in The United Kingdom: How Many Can You Spot?
Unsplash: Neil Mewes
It is an almost universally acknowledged truth that anyone with a British English accent is considered quite charming and utterly attractive. However, outside of the UK, most people aren’t familiar with the varied and wide-ranging accents in the different regions of Great Britain, and they certainly can’t tell you where their speakers come from. Have you ever heard of a Cockney accent? Probably, but a Geordie accent? Not likely. The most commonly recognized accent fixed in the minds of many is known as the Received Pronunciation.
The term Received Pronunciation (RP) was coined by phonetician Daniel Jones. Jones first named the accent “Public School Pronunciation” in the original 1917 edition of the English Pronouncing Dictionary based on it being taught to upper and middle class boarding school (“public school”) boys in southern England. In the second edition of the English Pronouncing Dictionary, Jones changed the name to “Received Pronunciation” based on the idea that the accent was accepted or approved. It was not until the late 19th Century that the “Standard English” spoken in London started resembling Received Pronunciation.
RP is usually associated with people of high social standing as a symbol of prestige. It is also often called “The Queen’s English,” but some linguists argue that The Queen’s English includes dialect as well as accent. The BBC news used to only allow RP to be used through its programs because they believed its sound exhibited sincerity and trustworthiness. However, the BBC reformed its standard to promote and ensure that the diversity of its audience and their voices are represented.
RP is still widely used in different media, and is heard in films and series like Pride & Prejudice, Downton Abbey, and Life on Earth by Sir David Attenborough. It’s used by many popular stars including Emma Watson, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Stephen Fry. However, the scope of British accents heard in popular media is slowly expanding. While The Crown typically uses RP, you’ll hear Cockney in EastEnders, Brummie in Peaky Blinders, and Manc in Shameless or Coronation Street. Here are a few introductions to some fun accents to listen for!
Have you ever heard Ozzy Osbourne speak? Seen Peaky Blinders? Hey-ho, then you heard Brummie! This dialect comes from – I mean Birmingham, the second-largest city in the UK. The Brummie uses a downward intonation at the end of its sentence. Its vowels are pronounced drawly, and its r’s are rolled but not overrrly rolled. The intensity of the Brummie accent varies from person to person across the Midlands region. Here are three Brummie examples to start you off!
- Pit = “peet”
- Here you are = “eee-yar”
- Hut = “hoot”
Dick Van Dyke is famous for his awful version of a Cockney accent in Mary Poppins. Even Julie Andrews said he butchered it! If you want to hear a more accurate version, EastEnders is a much better bet, as is Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels for a more mature audience, or anything starring Michael Caine. “Cockney” was originally used as a derogatory term to describe city-dwellers in East End London, but they embraced it and even developed their own dialect of rhyming slang. The accent involves lots of th-fronting (dropping an initial “th” and making an “f” sound) and completely dropping “h” starts.
- Through = “frew”
- Heart = “art”
Did you know that Jade Thirwall from Little Mix is Geordie? So is Sam Fender, who loves using Geordie slang! Whey aye, man! Geordie is considered to be one of the strongest and most striking English accents. At the same time, the dialect is also known as one of the friendliest for its sing-song sound. Fut fact: the accent gets its name straight from George, which was one of the most common names of the coal miners in North East England. Howay man (let’s go) and practise some Geordie!
- Going to = “gannen”
- Something = “summick”
- I don’t know = “a divven knaw”
4. NORTHERN IRISH
Listen closely to how Jamie Dornan speaks in The Fall. Mate, that accent is Northern Irish! Northern Irish is a rhotic language, where the /r/ at the end of the sentence is usually emphasised. Northern Irish often sounds more like a question because of the rise of intonation at the end of the sentence. A quick note there, fellas; the word “wee” in Northern Irish is used to describe a lot of things, not just small things. Try adding wee in front of the following words!
- Flower = “flarr”
- Butter = “bu’er”
Here comes the Scouse...I mean..‘sun’ do do do. The people from Liverpool and its surrounding areas are known for their Scouse accent. As with most accents, Scouse evolved over time and now varies from person to person and place to place. For example, the Northern accent is typically described as having a more nasal and faster sound. The Southern accent has a comparably dark yet soft and slower sound. Almost everyone knows at least one famous band from Liverpool: Paul, John, George, and Ringo! Perhaps the parents of these great musicians spoke “Liverpudlian,” an older version of Scouse. Practise talking like a Beatle with the following words!
- Right = “rightse” (with a soft “se” at the end)
- Hang on a moment = “ang on a mo”
Yorkshire pudding, yum. Yorkshire tea, yum. What do both have in common? Both are from Yorkshire! People from Yorkshire County, the largest county in the North of England, speak the Yorkshire accent. Yorkshire is another one of the friendliest accents in the UK with its roots stemming from Old English, the language of the Germanic tribes, and Old Norse, the language of Vikings. Two tips: the letter ‘u’ is pronounced as /ooo/ and ‘the’ is pronounced as /tuh/. Aye, mate ready for some Yorkshire sounds?
- Make = “mek”
- Love the ball = “love tuh ball”
- Happy = “happeh”
The good ol’ Blighty is home to many picturesque places, flavoursome foods, and almost infinitely diverse British accents. While the posh RP accent will unfailingly have its zig-a-zig ah and appeal to some listeners, thankfully not all British accents sound the same, so we have a lot to explore! From music to tv, from news programs to sports stars, there are plenty of ways to listen to, understand, and learn the English language. Cheers!