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Beryl Bainbridge and the Liverpool accent.

Eddie Mair | 17:20 UK time, Thursday, 22 January 2009


What do you think of what she said? If you missed it, click on the play symbol above.


  • 1. At 5:37pm on 22 Jan 2009, Screamingmuldoon wrote:

    Try asking a Belfast person to say the word jetlag - cracks me up every time.

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  • 2. At 5:46pm on 22 Jan 2009, morseman wrote:

    Shaw said ''It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making another Englishman hate or despise him.''

    I don't mind other peoples accents, I just wish we could all stop slanging each other off about it.

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  • 3. At 5:46pm on 22 Jan 2009, oji-san wrote:

    As someone who speaks "properly" (as defined by Ms Bainbridge) I have to say she is speaking utter nonsense. There is no "right" pronunciation; just some that are more approriate in some circumstances.

    As to the Beatles not having Liverpool accents, well that's news to me.

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  • 4. At 5:47pm on 22 Jan 2009, skybluebex wrote:

    I'm not from Liverpool but I found her comments really offensive. Part of Englands charm is the mix of accents, which may have changed and merged over the years, but as a Yorkshire lass living in London I am saddened to hear my accent drift away - I love going back up north, to hear people pronounce their vowels properly (to my ears)!!

    I'm not surprised she received hate mail last time she spoke about this - though nice to see that the 'uneducated' folk can still write letters!

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  • 5. At 5:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, Charmbrights wrote:

    Certain announcers and newsreaders with Northern Ireland accents defeat me completely. By the time I have worked out that "High money pints ..." at the start of a sentence actually means "How many pounds ..." I have lost the rest of the sentence.

    PLEASE give them elocution lessons if you want to use these people as newsreaders and/or announcers.

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  • 6. At 5:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, londonskoota wrote:

    What a silly old lady Beryl was...If you went to Merchant Taylors in the 50s or 40s you may well get elocution lessons...but most Liverpudlians didnt have that expensive privelage. ( By the way, Beryl, any fool know that elocution lessons are still prohibitively expensivly to a working class family...anywhere...and NOT a priority.)
    My Liverpool family all spoke with wonderful scouse accents, some from Crosby others from Garston, and middle class literati should not make any of us feel ashamed of that! It's a shame that Beryl keeps biting the hand that fed her.

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  • 7. At 5:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, paulthingy wrote:

    I'm sorry but she's talking utter, utter rubbish (and contradicted herself into the bargain) and clearly hasn't the faintest idea what she's talking about. People's attitudes to accents are nothing to do with the objective qualities of the accent; they're everything to do with stereotypical images of the people who use the accents. Several academic studies have shown this, often by showing that people who aren't from the UK come up with quite different ideas as to which accents are good or bad.

    All accents change over the years and we just have to accept it. And by the way, the first time I found a fellow British person impossible to understand because of their accent, it was someone from Kent. Completely inpenetrable it was.

    Perhaps next time you give voice to ranting amateurs like this you could consider actually talking to people who have studied language scientifically rather than just some ignoramus providing vox pop.

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  • 8. At 5:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, foodie16 wrote:

    It's not just Liverpool accents. I often visit the great melting-pot of London and often have to ask people to repeat what they are saying. These are usually people in the service industry; in Post Offices, behind counters, at stations. I end up feeling as though I'm deaf but it's that so many people just don't talk clearly or have such thick accents that anyone outside their group cannot understand them.

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  • 9. At 5:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, U13793617 wrote:

    What an awful snob, Bainbridge sounds, apart from coming over as being terribly condescending.

    Accents are a wonderful thing. I wouldn't wish us here in the UK all to sound like a collective of BBC announcers circa 1953.

    Oh, and surely it's "The Kings English" not "The Queen's English". Doesn't it relate to the Kings James' Bibles, rather than the reigning monarch?

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  • 10. At 5:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, tringboy1 wrote:

    From what I can work out, accents are a form of 'mirroring' - wanting to be accepted by a person or a group by mimicking. Change the aspiration and you'll change the accent... in time.

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  • 11. At 5:49pm on 22 Jan 2009, Tedo60 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 12. At 5:49pm on 22 Jan 2009, yobinbed wrote:

    What a snob.

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  • 13. At 5:49pm on 22 Jan 2009, Soniche wrote:

    I also found Beryl's comments patronising. The cadence and accents that comprise the output now across all radio output - 1xtra, 6Music 5 Live are varied and represent historically the way our language is developing through the diverse population. The Liverpool accent is an example of this and I think it shoudl be reflected more on national radio - including 4!

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  • 14. At 5:50pm on 22 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    Sm 1, I'm trying to imaging 'jetlag' sounding like Porky Pig.

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  • 15. At 5:50pm on 22 Jan 2009, U13793619 wrote:

    My mother was one of the Manchester schoolchildren who recorded Nymphs and Shepherds, in, I think the 1920s. She recalled that they were told to sing 'Nymphs and shepherds CALM away', lest their Mancunian pronunciation of 'come' should sound like 'koom' on the recording.

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  • 16. At 5:51pm on 22 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    Not much to read here.....yet.

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  • 17. At 5:51pm on 22 Jan 2009, daveheadey wrote:

    Beryl Bainbridge is right to say that the Liverpool accent has changed over the years, but wrong to say it's all down to the lack of elocution lessons (150 years ago most Liverpool kids didn't go to school, let alone take elocution lessons!).

    The scouse accent is apparently little over 100 years old. Until then there were separate Lancashire, Welsh, Irish and other communities, each with their own accent. It's only when social mixing began to occur in the late 1900s that the scouse accent came about, and as your next interviewee pointed out there are still many variants across the city. And it's still developing.

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  • 18. At 5:51pm on 22 Jan 2009, yannni wrote:

    Well, I did research for an MA over twenty years ago and played people a text read by a few people ranging from a broad Glaswegian to Queen's English type accent and asked people what sort of job they did. The Glaswegian was judged as probably a factory worker when in fact he was a University professor. I also asked them how trustworthy they thought the speaker would be. Guess what! It's fascinating how people have no trouble in attributing all sorts of characteristics to people just from their accent. Some things will be accurate - like where they might be from, but others certainly won't!

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  • 19. At 5:52pm on 22 Jan 2009, Yorkshiresussex wrote:

    I don't recall the bankers and financial experts that have failed us having Liverpudlian accents!

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  • 20. At 5:53pm on 22 Jan 2009, gabrielsnapper wrote:

    Good grief! What century does Beryl Bainbridge live in? She lambasts Liverpudlians for their ignorance, but in fact it is she who is painfully ignorant. I suggest she reads any basic introduction to sociolinguistics and language variety. This will explain to her in simple terms why she is utterly wrong. Language changes naturally and inevitably both across time and geographically, as well as in relation to class. Regional accents are a feature of every language. The Liverpudlian accent is as natural as any other accent.

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  • 21. At 5:53pm on 22 Jan 2009, U13793641 wrote:

    Does Beryl Bainbridge have a new book out, I seem to recall that last time she attacked Liverpool accents she was promoting a book.
    Accents are a worldwide phenomenon, for example, in certain parts of France the accents make my schoolgirl French redundant.

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  • 22. At 5:53pm on 22 Jan 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Eddie: get over yourself! Did you always speak like that?

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  • 23. At 5:53pm on 22 Jan 2009, ZankFrappa wrote:

    Beryl Bainbridge's opinions, though well intended, were snobbish and confused. The important point about any accent is whether the speaker is articulate and comprehensible. Inarticulacy suggests an inability to think clearly. Incomprehensibility renders any form of speech useless.

    With regard to the Scouse accent, the rot set in with Cilla Black.

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  • 24. At 5:54pm on 22 Jan 2009, JockDahnSaarf wrote:


    Dame Beryl Bainbridge was "educated" at Merchant Taylor's, Liverpool. This may explain her anal fixation with RP. (Minor Public School Girly)

    Of all the accents of the UK, and long live the diversity, the one I dislike most is RP. RP comes from nowhere except the public school system; its sole function is arguably as a badge of class.

    We'd all be better off without Received Pronunciation.


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  • 25. At 5:55pm on 22 Jan 2009, Chris Boswell wrote:

    eggh up,

    people with regional accents sound uneducated do they? Well as someone with a regional accent I think I'd like to point out to Beryl some of her educational shortcomings - English language study these days is descriptive not prescriptive, and the notion that RP is somehow a) more legitimate and b) spoken by more people is just nonsense. The notion of RP or Standard English has only been around a few hundred years, whereas regional accents can be traced back to pre-Norman times. Both RP and SE are artificial constructs and I think starting to become residual constructs at that.

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  • 26. At 5:56pm on 22 Jan 2009, TheHappiestOtter wrote:

    Accents CAN be a bit hard to penetrate, but it's poor grammar and vocabulary that really stand out.

    I recently heard a young teacher saying "let's think back to what we done yesterday" in a very clear middle class, middle England accent.

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  • 27. At 5:56pm on 22 Jan 2009, Giftmacher wrote:

    Beryl hardly covered herself in glory in that interview. Indeed, it sounded more like she dislikes Liverpudlians full stop. Why, for example, is Liverpool not allowed a regional accent while Lancashire and presumably other places like Hull are? I can appreciate that aesthetically she may not like the sound, but that is a matter of opinion, which has no bearing on the legitimacy/authenticity of the accent. Perhaps Beryl should spare us from having to listen to her accent and leave pronouncements on the evolution of regional dialect to the relevant scholars?

    I'm not overly fond of accents myself (no I don't have a Liverpool accent btw, but my dad was from Scotland road) but I suspect we would be culturally diminished as a country without them.


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  • 28. At 5:56pm on 22 Jan 2009, jetcoates wrote:

    Apart from the fact that she grew up in Liverpool, I can't understand why Beryl Bainbridge was asked to comment on the Liverpool accent. Why not ask someone who actually knows about English accents and dialects, such as a sociolinguist? There is no such thing as a "wrong" way of pronouncing a word - since Anglo-Saxon times, different parts of Britain have spoken differently, and all the different accents (and dialects) are equally good. BBC English, as it's often referred to, is very prestigious, and is associated with high status people, but it is just one way of speaking among many.

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  • 29. At 5:57pm on 22 Jan 2009, marinewillard wrote:

    Bainbridge has exposed the corruptive effect of soaps on British society. She is right in everything she said.

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  • 30. At 5:58pm on 22 Jan 2009, Screamingmuldoon wrote:

    DMcN at 14 - no need for that, just reverse the vowels.

    And stick a bit of a whinge on it.

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  • 31. At 5:58pm on 22 Jan 2009, bijouduncan wrote:

    Beryl is quite right, bring back good speaking so that we can all understand people from all parts of ther country Has anyone any idea what that dreadful woman who does lottery results on BB1 is saying? But I fear it will never happen to be sloppy in everything is so in fashion

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  • 32. At 5:59pm on 22 Jan 2009, foodie16 wrote:

    If all the posts on here are post-moderated, why can't we see them?

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  • 33. At 6:00pm on 22 Jan 2009, peasantsrocks wrote:

    I absolutely love Beryl Bainbridge. I think she is a fantastic author and has therefore won the right to speak her mind. How refreshing and indeed joyful it is to hear someone totally ignore the rules of political correctness.
    She earns extra respect for being expelled from the same school I had the misfortune to attend. Beryl the rebel rules!!!

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  • 34. At 6:00pm on 22 Jan 2009, U12196018 wrote:

    Screamingmuldoon - I'll have you know that I nearly talk like that - JatLeg! Haha!

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  • 35. At 6:02pm on 22 Jan 2009, Seboer wrote:

    She's absolutely right. As a Liverpudlian born and bred I am horrified at the sound of - MAINLY- females, when I go back to the city now. It started with Australian soaps in the early 80s, which brought in a rise at the end of sentences? - Like you know? And has gone on to include such a whingeing tone that makes what was always such a warm friendly accent - almost laughable!

    At school, like Beryl, it wasn't elocution but we WERE picked up on things that sounded "odd"; most notably: the difference between
    a fur coat
    fur hur (fair hair)
    and the "furry" on the Christmas tree....

    - and I've dined out many a time - around the world - on THAT story!
    In 1990 my Liverpudlian niece came to stay with us. She was 14 and seemed..... silent. Asked if she was ok - and happy - she replied "I feel ashamed of the way I sound....." She's chosen to stay in Liverpool ever since.......

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  • 36. At 6:02pm on 22 Jan 2009, Screamingmuldoon wrote:

    QualifiedLoon - I can talk. You've got to be one to slag one off though, so fair play to Beryl the Peril.

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  • 37. At 6:03pm on 22 Jan 2009, Snafu_labour wrote:

    The pre-seventies Liverpool accent had nothing of the foulness of modern scouse.

    Modern scouse is a nasty whining sneer and if Liverpudlians want to know why they never get anywhere in life they need look no further.

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  • 38. At 6:05pm on 22 Jan 2009, puggymum wrote:

    I dont think its the nicest accent-but i also dont think its any worse than a Midlands or North East accent either.
    Personally i dont particuarly like any of these accents and i often find them hard to understand

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  • 39. At 6:09pm on 22 Jan 2009, Fifi wrote:

    Patience, patience, to the new bloggers who're all waiting for the pixies to approve their maiden comments!

    For myself ... I think clarity of speech and clarity of listening should go hand in hand. I have known many RP-speakers who claimed not to be able to understand clear well-enunciated 'provincial' accents ... and their statement was always about class not communication.


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  • 40. At 6:09pm on 22 Jan 2009, U12196018 wrote:

    I don't think that there is a Liverpool accent, I think there are 3 or 4. I love them all.

    Daughter No1 studied in Liverpool for her degree and could pronounce the word 'book' 3 different ways and all Liverpudlian.

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  • 41. At 6:15pm on 22 Jan 2009, Junction26 wrote:

    Whilst being born in Yorkshire my grammar school education ensured that my accent all but disappeared, that is until my own children went to school and I now with their influence I am back to the broad Yorkshire. So I agree with Beryl that the lack of elocution in schools has had a great effect.

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  • 42. At 6:17pm on 22 Jan 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 43. At 6:17pm on 22 Jan 2009, JockDahnSaarf wrote:

    Fifi Wrote:

    "For myself ... I think clarity of speech and clarity of listening should go hand in hand. I have known many RP-speakers who claimed not to be able to understand clear well-enunciated 'provincial' accents ... and their statement was always about class not communication. "

    I wholeheartedly concur!


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  • 44. At 6:20pm on 22 Jan 2009, peasantsrocks wrote:


    I agree. Long live the diversity! However, by slagging off RP you are making yourself look like a fool. It should be embraced in the same way Liverpudlian is.

    Personally I think cut class English accents are the most attractive. How vile when a beautiful woman opens her mouth only to insult the ears with a thick regional accent.

    I also think that the decline of RP represents a general decline of standards in the UK, which is sad.

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  • 45. At 6:22pm on 22 Jan 2009, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Londonskoota (6):

    Thank you! I was trying to figure out why she'd been given elocution lessons by merchant sailors.

    I can see the benefit of *easing off* accents. I'm from the south side of Glasgow and have an accent akin to Rab C Nesbitt or the neddier characters in "Taggart". This got me a lot of flak from all sides as a youngster; as a quiet lad who read much more than he spoke, I had a vocabulary - thanks to Asimov, Clarke and Wodehouse - which didn't sit well with an accent more often heard chanting sectarian obscenities.

    Conversely, these days regional accents are much more widespread in the media, so the connotations associated with them have been diluted, so I think there's more scope for them being accepted.

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  • 46. At 6:23pm on 22 Jan 2009, mamalou1 wrote:

    There is no 'proper' English just standard English, who is Beryl Bainbridge, or anyone, to be so judgemental? I don't like the sound of all accents, but I'm glad they are there. Diversity and pride in all our regions through the way we speak can only be a good thing. The only reason that there has been an increase in strong regional accents, in the last however many years, is because there is less pressure to speak in such a 'standard' way, the focus has changed; we focus on what is said, not how it is said.

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  • 47. At 6:23pm on 22 Jan 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    How awful and predictably depressing that Beryl Bainbridge, who has more wisdom, insight and intelligence than most of the other contributors to this blog combined, be roundly criticised for talking common sense.

    Anyone would think that she was saying that we should all speak like the Queen and that she did not like ANY accents, when if you had actually bothered to listen to her, had said the opposite.

    We ALL know, unless we aren't willing to admit to it, that we prefer to listen to people who speak clearly and pronounce words properly and not lazily or inaccurately.

    It is fine to have an accent, but that does mean being comprehensible to people from other parts of the country.

    I used to have a very strong Welsh accent and much of my pronunciation was hideous and inaccurate. So when I started work it was impossible for others to understand me.

    I absolutely would not say that I want to speak with 'received pronunciation', but it is necessary to speak with clarity so that meaning can be understood.

    As I mentioned on another post, Huw Edwards, Eddie Mair and Carolyn Brown have accents which don't get in the way of understanding what is being said.

    The same can't always be said of Kathy Clugston - and while I love her to bits on 'Folks on the Hill' - she needs to take a tip from Huw who mellows his Welsh accent for the London news.

    No doubt this comment will be treated with contempt, and I will be receiving a load of bile and invective - but why do you think that contact centres want well-spoken people ? They know that we judge people on how they speak to us - and listening to sloppy, lazy, unclear and grammatically incorrect language and pronunciation just will not cut it in the world today.

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  • 48. At 6:23pm on 22 Jan 2009, normanmugabe wrote:

    On a ship once, I asked the cook to identify a tray of dodgy-looking items sloshing about in a fathom of grease and he, a man of birminghamese origin replied: "Freud eggs."

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  • 49. At 6:29pm on 22 Jan 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Oh, enough of this arguing.

    It's time for a kipper tie...

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  • 50. At 6:30pm on 22 Jan 2009, U12196018 wrote:

    lordBeddGelert (47) - "No doubt this comment will be treated with contempt . . ." - Well, you got that bit right.

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  • 51. At 6:30pm on 22 Jan 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    Dear me,

    I've had something referred to to moderator for saying....?

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  • 52. At 6:33pm on 22 Jan 2009, cyberdougie wrote:

    Three cheers for Beryl! At last someone has the courage to say on radio what so many of us think! It is not just the harshness of exaggerated accents but the steadily deteriorating pronunciation which one hears on tv and radio particularly whenever the "public" is interviewed.
    When one learns a foreign language one learns how to pronounce the words so that one is understood easily. Should not this simple principle apply when we speak our own language?
    Best of luck Beryl with the wave of invective your remarks will inevitably produce.

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  • 53. At 6:34pm on 22 Jan 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    I had my comment at (42) for expressing myself in a local dialect from north of the border where I believe it would not have attracted any offence.

    Long live Rab Nesbitt!

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  • 54. At 6:40pm on 22 Jan 2009, goodolddog wrote:

    Beryl Bainbridge made some valid points, although perhaps they way in which she made them was outmoded.

    The key thing is that whatever you say in whatever accent should be clear and sound lively and interesting to your listeners. We must all have heard the gag about someone mistaking 'kipper tie' from a Brummie for 'cup of tea'.

    Speech and Drama lessons (as elocution is mostly known) these days teaches clarity, communication and confidence. The subject should be given a greater role in education than it is at the moment.

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  • 55. At 6:42pm on 22 Jan 2009, normski9999 wrote:

    I grew up in the early 50's in Bootle (north Liverpool) and left it in 1975.
    I remember our teacher Mr Breen, got his hands on a recording machine and we all had a go on it. When my voice was played back, the accent was very pronounced. Mr Breen ( from Crosby ) went "Eeeeeeww ! the rest of the class joined in. I was 9 years old and I learnt that a Scouse accent was a bad thing.
    When I moved to Preston,30 miles north, I HAD to moderate my accent, because people mimicked what I said, they were enjoying trying to copy me rather than listen to what I was saying. Again a Scouse accent is a bad thing.
    Beryl, coming from Formby(where I now live, would never have had friends, or talked to anyone from where I grew up. Poets corner, Bootle ,was very working class indeed, with a much more scouse sound than Mr Kirbys, the playwright.
    So I'm afraid she is very wrong to think that the accent got "worse" after the 60's. It has always been there.

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  • 56. At 6:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, steelpulse wrote:

    I just love accents. The only one I couldn't get was some gentlemen constantly shown on those "Oopsie Daisy outtake" TV shows.

    It wasn't the accent but the machine gun delivery of speech.

    The interviewer kept asking him to slow down as it made pretty incomprehensible TV but I regret it was the gents normal mode of delivery.

    I smile still but it is because I still haven't heard actually the no doubt important thing he - the interviewee was trying to get across to that interviewer.

    I think it was a strike of some sort.

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  • 57. At 6:51pm on 22 Jan 2009, JockDahnSaarf wrote:

    peasantsrocks wrote:

    "I agree. Long live the diversity! However, by slagging off RP you are making yourself look like a fool. It should be embraced in the same way Liverpudlian is.

    Personally I think cut class English accents are the most attractive. How vile when a beautiful woman opens her mouth only to insult the ears with a thick regional accent.

    I also think that the decline of RP represents a general decline of standards in the UK, which is sad."

    I will defend to the death your right to disagree with me, to paraphrase Voltaire.

    However, my last comment about RP was intended to provoke precisely your reaction; it simply mirrors Beryl Bainbridges pejudices and is just as absurd.

    Be aware that not all readers support freespeech - someone appears to have complained about my original post at 17:54


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  • 58. At 6:54pm on 22 Jan 2009, ZankFrappa wrote:

    I grew up in Gloucestershire, Laurie Lee country. My parents sent me to a school where accents were eliminated in favour of RP. I sometimes regret my lost burr, I can't properly remember what is becoming a lost dialect.

    Notably Lee's accent didn't hold him back. It was part of him and of his art.

    Isn't that the sadness of "elocution"? The loss of culture associated with language or dialect is recognised in Scotland and Wales. Why not in the English regions?

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  • 59. At 7:02pm on 22 Jan 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Maybe if Beryl Bainbridge were to teach those children who were receiving lessons on 'how to be happy' how to avoid saying the word 'like' 5 times in every sentence and then teaching them proper English, and avoiding the need to have 'literacy targets' and 'Key Stage' tests, then two birds could be killed with one stone...

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  • 60. At 7:11pm on 22 Jan 2009, Snafu_labour wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 61. At 7:16pm on 22 Jan 2009, UptheTrossachs wrote:

    Piffle! That's what I was shouting at the radio as Beryl was speaking utter nonsense. The chap from Liverpool had a good go at defending the Liverpudlian accent,but it could have been even more interesting if you had someone with some background in linguistics. I'm sure a first year undergraduate from any department of Linguistics could have driven a coach and horses through Beryl Bainbridge's argument. Didn't particularly like her accent either.

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  • 62. At 7:25pm on 22 Jan 2009, Crainey wrote:

    It is intriguing how the Liverpool accent has become stronger over the years, although not all Scousers speak with it. Compare Lord Goldsmith,former Attorney General, with John Lennon. They both went to Quarry Bank High School, as did I, yet Goldsmith,who is almost ten years younger than Lennon, speaks with a barely perceptible Liverpool accent, and Lennon was instantly recognizable as a Scouser. Other alumni of the same school include Joe Royle and Steve Coppell (Liverpool accent) and Derek Nimmo (no Liverpool accent).

    Rex Harrison (Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady), like Steven Gerrard , was born in Huyton and went to Liverpool College. Harrison was an outstanding exemplar of RP. If you go to go to Liverpool College (a public school) today you will hear predominantly strong Liverpool accents.

    The Liverpool accent rapidly became stronger starting in the early '60s. I suspect that this is because Liverpudlians believed their accent to be acceptable thanks to its enormous exposure via the Beatles and programmes like Coronation Street (especially Peter Adams, the Len Fairclough Character, and Kenneth Cope), the Liver Birds, Bread, Brookside etc., etc.

    Contrast this with the 1920s and 1930s when my parents were growing up in Anfield. It seems to me that both of them were ambitious and consciously eschewed speaking Scouse believing they needed RP to get on. Although both of them lived in Liverpool all their lives neither of them had a noticeable Liverpool accent, certainly no stronger than that of Beryl Bainbridge who, as one of your bloggers correctly points out, is definitely not from Liverpool.

    I myself left Liverpool in 1969 at the age of seventeen. I have not felt the same strong need to lose the accent as did my parents. People tell me I speak with a mild northern accent but when tired it definitely becomes Scouse. This could never have been said of my parents.

    When people learn that I am from Liverpool they pretty well demand that I speak Scouse for them. I am convinced that this is because of the renown the Beatles gave the accent and that this same phenomenon has encouraged Liverpudlians to proudly speak strong Scouse.

    As I said at the outset, it's intriguing.

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  • 63. At 7:26pm on 22 Jan 2009, U13793787 wrote:

    I really like well-spoken regional accents as it shows diversity and gives colour to our country.
    But when I hear so-called celebrities and overpaid sportsmen on Radio 4 overpunctuating with excess their comments with 'like' and 'y'know', I just want to scream.
    It's not elocution lessons some people need, but instruction in speaking coherently.
    Quite, y'know, clearly, like, this is no longer, y'know on the curriculum, like, of the majority, like, of schools y'know?

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  • 64. At 7:41pm on 22 Jan 2009, H wrote:

    Our language comes in several varieties - local, regional, national and international - English is all of these.

    It makes great sense for people to have a thorough and accurate knowledge of the national
    language. The national language has standard spellings (which change very slowly) and a fairly standard pronunciation (RP - received pronunciation).

    Without the national language we cannot communicate readily.

    None of this devalues local and regional variants - and, of course, local and regional accents. They have their place.

    The real threat to our national language is the variety of foreign local and regional variants which are lumped together as " American".

    English is linguistically very simple, but the various American local and regional
    languages simplify it even further, and in a variety of contradictory ways.

    Yet the standard national language of America is almost indistinguishable from our own RP.

    Just listen to and admire Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton.

    So, let's take pride in our standard received language and stick to it for simplicity, accuracy and convenience.

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  • 65. At 7:59pm on 22 Jan 2009, Perky wrote:

    I think Beryl failed to make the distinction between accent and clear speech. We all want to be able to understand what is being said to us, and that comes from good diction and an understanding of the language we speak - but it's not to do with the regional accent we have.

    I moved around the country as a child and moderated my accent to fit in with whatever way my new schoolfriends were speaking. I had a Glaswegian mother and a RP speaking father, and I'm now pretty accent-less, although my years in Yorkshire have left me with a bit of the warmth of the north.

    I think a quick and probably very unscientific survey would show that many of us are attracted to people because of their accents. Personally, I find Scottish and Irish accents very appealing . . .

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  • 66. At 8:00pm on 22 Jan 2009, TombstoneEpitaph wrote:

    Beryl Bainbridge is talking rubbish. I grew up 8 miles from Liverpool in the 50's and 60's and probably had an accent that was a mixture of Liverpool and a local Lancashire accent. There is no such thing as a general Lancashire Accent either: a Professor Higgins could probably work out which town I came from and what part of that town! None of us were taught elocution in state schools; Ms Bainbridge was born in 'posh' Formby, some distance from the city, and went to Merchant Taylors - a private school - anyway. How refreshing it is to listen to Winifred Robinson, Phil Redmond, Alan Bleasdale and others who still have a hint of the Liverpool accent.

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  • 67. At 8:02pm on 22 Jan 2009, U13793896 wrote:

    Miss Bainbridge has got it absolutely right. We all bemoan the loss of minority languages, dialects and accents but very few people apart from Beryl Bainbridge mourn the passing of the Liverpool accent. I was brought up in Liverpool many years ago and that accent is now virtually dead – it has been replaced by something that seems to get more bizarre each year. The Liverpool accent was something unique, special and romantic (just like the city from which it sprung). These days it’s seen as something of a joke accent with the population trying to be Harry Enfield.
    It’s not just my home city that this has happened to – I live in Kent now and the old ‘carrot crunchers’ who have lived here for decades say the same thing has happened here too.
    I suppose at least it shows the English language is alive and … not sure well is the right word.

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  • 68. At 8:06pm on 22 Jan 2009, NelRow23 wrote:

    I believe that Beryl Bainbridge made a valid point. Some accents are pleasant to most ears in the English speaking world and are readily understood. Others are both unattractive and difficult to understand outside a relatively small circle.

    Unless there are some standards to which we all conform we are in danger of failing to understand each other. That is why a standard dialect was developed, and conformity (to an extent) was encouraged in the spoken language.

    The expense of elocution lessons should not be necessary now that spoken English is deemed as important as the written language in many schools.

    It is depressing to hear on this blog, as in so many areas, the use of that ridiculous expression 'working class'. As the great majority of us work, whether to earn a living and/or to care for relatives and make a home the term is meaningless. We need to express ourselves clearly whatever our situation.

    I am all for variety, but not for incomprehensible mumbles. In some situations, as in choral singing or verse speaking, for example, greater uniformity is required than in conversation.

    I recall Timothy West lamenting recently that drama school graduates are not always able to produce an RP accent. COnsidering the vast numbers of RP roles this must put them at a disadvantage in a very competitive field.

    The glorification of the demotic over the last few decades has had its downsides. as well.

    Incidentally why the expression RP? We all, surely receive our pronunciation from somewhere.

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  • 69. At 8:09pm on 22 Jan 2009, brandnew2this wrote:

    I have never used a blog or message board before but having heard Ms Bainbridges interview whilst driving home from work I felt obliged to comment.

    Her interviewer asked why Liverpudlians are more willing to change their accents than others.

    Comments and attitudes of the type displayed by Ms Bainbridge are precisely the reason why articulate, professional and intelligent people from Liverpool choose to modulate their accent. We do so to avoid prejudice, not to make ourselves understood.

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  • 70. At 8:12pm on 22 Jan 2009, U13793903 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 71. At 8:17pm on 22 Jan 2009, mikmak33 wrote:

    I remember a cousin from London many years ago coming to stay with our family in Lancashire and we played 'I spy' in the Kitchen. "I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'T' " I said to my cousin "You have three goes"
    "Table-" "No" "Teapot" - "No - one more go" "I've got it he said - Teacup!"
    "You've had three goes, do you give in?"
    "OK what is it"?
    "T'oven" I replied

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  • 72. At 8:19pm on 22 Jan 2009, regaltoffeenose wrote:

    I tried not to rise to the bait of this confused and deliberately provocative piece of nonsense. But in the end, and subject matter aside, I am convinced that the real issue revealed here is the danger of intolerance, prejudice and class snobbery (masquerading as good old-fashioned common sense) that has led to so many of the world's problems, historical and current. I imagine there were those who once tried to justify their dislike of the jewish accent. Shame.

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  • 73. At 8:23pm on 22 Jan 2009, Gillianian wrote:

    What a pity Beryl Bainbridge has lost whatever bit of regional accent she may have had. If she had kept it, she may have sounded less priggish.
    I too suffered what was termed ''speech training'' at my working-class grammar school in the Black Country. Sadly for my teacher, it seems my classmates and I were harder nuts to crack than Ms Bainbridge must have been.
    Our teacher made us self-conscious and embarrassed about ourselves, and that's something I've tried to put right as I've matured.
    I'm not too bothered about my accent now - but I do regret the demise of my local dialect. It's dialect more than accent which makes it hard to follow someone's conversation.
    funnyJoedunn (51) I've tried on several occassions to post comments in my ''accent''. Sadly, they're moderated because they're not recognised as ''English''!!!!

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  • 74. At 8:23pm on 22 Jan 2009, Charlie wrote:

    Well said Miss Bainbridge

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  • 75. At 8:27pm on 22 Jan 2009, Anne P. wrote:

    Far too much time given over to Beryl Bainbridge. Was there no real news to report on?

    But then the Radio 4 listeners do love their spats about correct grammar and 'proper' pronunciation. I confess I've made my blog contributions on the subject before now.

    I'm with Fifi on this, apart from the necessity to speak clearly and grammatically enough to be understood, it's all about class, about which (speaking as a Scot) I've always found the English obsessed. Can anyone tell me why?

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  • 76. At 8:42pm on 22 Jan 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    From a Labour party website.. covers the debate about grammar and knife crime in one fell swoop...

    "Michael Message left at 11:03 pm, Wed 21st Jan 2009
    Knife crime in this country is rediculas the way its handeled if there was a automatic sentance for carrying a knife or gun on the streets it would be seen as a deterent why is it not in place ? why dont they listen to teens or the youth and actually see for them selves why the knives are on our streets i get teens opinions about this and by taking a life you violate human rights so why do murderers have luxuries ? we need change people need to listen if they dont the problem will get worse. justice system - slap on the wrist lol

    - What more can I say ?

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  • 77. At 8:46pm on 22 Jan 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Anne P. - it is because the English, unlike the Welsh and Scots, can't countenance the idea that someone from the wrong side of the tracks should have access to a decent education, decent healthcare and be able to rise up the social ladder.

    That would put the noses of Telegraph reading types right out of joint. Not that it takes much of an education to read the Telegraph these days..

    But the English do need someone to look down their noses upon - which is why I beat the system by speaking Welsh to my family and a fairly standard English to the people on this side of Offa's Dyke.

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  • 78. At 8:50pm on 22 Jan 2009, RJMolesworth wrote:

    Why pick on Liverpool. It's Jamfake I can't stand.

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  • 79. At 9:25pm on 22 Jan 2009, vindiva wrote:

    Having heard Beryl Bainbridge whilst driving home from work as a languages teacher in Grimsby, and having grown up in Southport (north of Liverpool) in the late 1960s and 70s, I felt a need to express my frustration at her interview.
    Southport was always deemed to be an upmarket resort, a short train journey along the coast via Crosby (home to Merchant Taylor's School) and Formby, home to Ms B in her youth. No doubt Ms Bainbridge may have performed there at the local Speech and Drama festival thanks to her elocution lessons, or strolled down Lord Street. In my youth Southport belonged to Lancashire, but after boundary reorganisation became part of the Sefton district of Merseyside. Interestingly the local accent has changed over the years, moving towards one which embraces many aspects of 'Scouse'. The original sandgrounders accent was more akin to that of West Lancashire.
    As a linguist I find language - and I include accent as well as dialect in this - quite fascinating. I think it rather sad when individuals find it necessary to 'lose' their particular regional accent and fear in this era of globalisation, true and long-standing accents will diminish and may ultimately die out. Ms Bainbridge suggested that television might have been the cause of an increase in 'scouse' - citing Coronation Street and Brookside as culprits! Corrie, as even Southerners will know, is set in Manchester where the accent is completely different. Brookside in its early days was a cult show (well done Phil Redmond) and as it began when Channel 4 itself did in the early 1980's cannot be held responsible for the generation Ms Bainbridge must be referring to.
    For a small island, we have a rich linguistic diversity, particularly in the North West. Long may this last!

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  • 80. At 10:08pm on 22 Jan 2009, coolgladdy wrote:

    I think Beryl is spot on about the scouse accent. I lived in Liverpool in the 60s and 70s and the accents were more refined. The modern version is just ugly and sloppy and it's often difficult to understand. If you want to hear a good old fashioned scouse accent, log on to radio Merseyside and listen to Billy Butler. Poor Beryl will get a load of stick from the professional scousers and southeners who think it's cool to deform our once beautiful lilt.

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  • 81. At 10:18pm on 22 Jan 2009, sensibleScousemouse wrote:

    I am, Dave Kirby the Liverpool playwright interviewed after Mrs Bainbridge's rancorous comments about the native dialect of people from my city. I must say that it's really comforting and refreshing to read all the comments of support in this blog. It reinforces my belief that R4 listeners are the most balanced, understanding and perceptive folk on the airwaves. Regional accents are part of our country's heritage. I have met wonderful people from all classes - working/middle/upper, each with their own accents and identity. To look down on somebody just because they don't speak eloquently is in my opinion condescending, elitist and prehistoric - to pick on one particular region touches upon xenophobia. Mrs Bainbridge is about as scouse as Prince Charles. She was brought up in Formby - a predominantly middle class suburb near Southport famous for its football residents such as Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres. In her interview she mentions that she attended Merchant Taylor's school which is a famous private school in Crosby. What she conveniently forgot to mention (and what makes her accusations more laughable) is that she was actually expelled from that school aged 14 - and the reason - because she was caught with a 'Vulgar note' in her pocket (Wikpedia). Maybe somewhere in there are certain demons and possibly the root of her unfortunate comments.

    Now if you will excuse one - one must dash. Toodle-pip.

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  • 82. At 11:24pm on 22 Jan 2009, oblogotaryman wrote:

    Whilst Beryl Bainbridge is perfectly entitled to her views that people should speak properly, I would like to point out that there is no such thing as a Liverpool accent. Regional variations in speach pronounciation are dialects, while national variations are accents. It's one thing to be critical of the way people speak, but if she is going to pontificate on such matters, then it does nothing for her credibility to be erroneous in such a basic fact.

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  • 83. At 11:43pm on 22 Jan 2009, peasantsrocks wrote:

    Hi Dave Kirby,

    I enjoyed reading your blog. It was one of the less pompous and irritatingly 'intellectual' ones written in support of regional accents.

    I think certain scouse accents (as another blogger has written there are many) are lovely. For example, The Beatles' accents are charming.

    However, as Beryl said in her interview, certain groups of young Liverpudlians speak in such a way that is incomprehensible. Their language seems to be designed to exclude other people. It is as though they deliberately want to pigeon hole themselves as outsiders. Perhaps even threatening outsiders.

    As I said in a previous blog, Beryl's lack of political correctness is refreshing. The fact she was expelled from Merchant Taylors only adds to her credibility as a true rebel, who refuses to conform to the modern idea that all spoken forms of the English language are equal.

    Strong scouse accents may be interesting but inclusive and attractive they are not.


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  • 84. At 00:03am on 23 Jan 2009, peasantsrocks wrote:

    It also says something that Merchants continue to be extremely proud of Beryl. Her picture hangs in its classrooms despite the fact she was expelled. She is their most prominent member of alumni.

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  • 85. At 00:42am on 23 Jan 2009, philip2001 wrote:

    People associate success, sophistication, power, education etc. with an english accent because they have been conditioned to believe a myth - the myth of the authoritative english voice.
    This myth has many origins but one its strongest proponents today is our media.
    Unfortunately, UK national broadcasting and advertising remains saturated with the english accent. You seldom hear accents other than those from London or the SE of England.
    So, day after day our national news, information, entertainment and advertising is dominated by this accent.
    Its only natural therefore that we should associate the english accent with all things socially important.
    As far as the BBC is concerned, I am confused as to why we don't hear more regional accents.
    We have an excellent local broadcasting network. Its been around for decades.. yet, regional voices and their wondeful accents are rarely heard. Listen to a national radio station for week and count the number of accents you hear. Or watch television adverts and listen carefully to the accents used.
    Thankfully the internet and increasing regional confidence is busting this myth apart.
    If the BBC and other UK broadcasters really want to connect with their audiences , I suggest they make more of an effort to reflect the rich tapestry of accents within these islands.

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  • 86. At 00:53am on 23 Jan 2009, coolgladdy wrote:

    Dave Kirby is wrong to say that Beryl is looking down on Liverpool people because they are not eloquent. She's talking about things like lazy pronunciation, eloquence is more about the use of language and as we know, Liverpool people are highly creative in their use of language. When I was growing up in Kirkdale it was the norm for people to want to improve themselves and this often meant trying to moderate their accent. I still think a lot of Liverpool people try to advance themselves in this way despite the brickbats they might receive from people like Dave. It's very 'unscouse' to look down on someone because they were lucky enough to go to a top school and Dave also seems to think that because Beryl doesn't meet his true scouse criteria that she should keep her gob shut. Surely, all this militates against his everyman description of himself. And by the way, Hansen and Dalglish live in Southport not Formby.

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  • 87. At 02:25am on 23 Jan 2009, ruperthowe wrote:

    Accent feature every night, please - that was brilliant.

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  • 88. At 04:38am on 23 Jan 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    An accent is always a great thing...
    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 89. At 10:22am on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    Gill 73, After 25 years in England, a lot of people now think I am Canadian instead of from the US. It doesn't bother me, but don't do the same in reverse with a Canadian.

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  • 90. At 10:23am on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    How did 74 and 73 get reversed?

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  • 91. At 10:31am on 23 Jan 2009, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    When I first came to Burns Country, I found the local folk were all effectively bilingual. On seeing a baffled look on my face, they would repeat whatever they had said, and if the baffled look persisted, back it would come a third time, but in (almost) RP. This was true even for kids, though it might have taken a fourth attempt.

    Time spent as a youth club leader has left me with a much widened vocabulary and, no doubt, a touch of a 'Scottish' accent, but when I last visited Florida, folk thought I was English - I soon disabused them of that, using glottal stops and a'!

    As a foreigner virtually all my life, I've discovered it a great advantage. Folk make allowances because they recognise you haven't had the benefit of their superior education, and, of course foreigners are a wee bit thick, so a wee bit more allowance...

    Some folk keep the accent of their youth for their whole life, while others, like myself and Perky, modulate to fit in. Others, of course, have an accent which cost their parents a lot of money... I've noticed that some Brits, upon returning from a long spell overseas, will bridle st the suggestion that they've 'picked up a bit of an accent' - they think it a sign of 'going native', and we can't be doing with that!

    I'd love to hear SSC doing Asimov with a proper Clydeside voice sometime. -))


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  • 92. At 10:37am on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    EI 91, I notice you use the word 'folk' like a lot of Americans. I never used it.
    I say 'people'.

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  • 93. At 10:41am on 23 Jan 2009, Giftmacher wrote:

    M83 peasantsrocks:
    "certain groups of young Liverpudlians speak in such a way that is incomprehensible."

    That could apply to young Londoners, Mancunians or most anywhere. Young people speaking in 'near code' is hardly an unknown phenomenon. The question is why single out Liverpool? Moreover, if being understood is the criticism why not stick to that rather than home in on a specific accent?

    As for a lack of political correctness, lack of manners more like. As I've said already I don't like many accents myself, but I keep my personal tastes to myself. Yes, PC is a nuisance at times but I don't see why being rude should be applauded as redressing the balance.


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  • 94. At 11:06am on 23 Jan 2009, radio4dependant wrote:

    Beryl Bainbridge is right.

    Received pronunciation, the Queen's or BBC English is one of the greatest gifts which any resident of the UK has easy ccess to and is a passport to jobs all over the world.

    There are many recordings of 'ordinary' people from all over the country made by the BBC 40+ years ago and the use spoken English was clear, confident and gramatically quite understandable and usully accurate. Regional accents were present but not dominant and, most important, did not detract or confuse the communication of information. Regional accents have great charm, humour and warmth when they do not dominate of the words being said.

    Young Londoners now often speak with a complex variety of glottal stops, slurring of words together with stocatto rap rythms which has almost become a dialect and equivalants of this are present in many parts of the country.

    Beryl is right that elocution was a normal part of education in previous generations and it is a tragedy that, like so many of the basics of learning (latin, philosophy, rhetoric, debating) it is now only available if you pay for it. It is part of the problem which our county has with envy and the desire to humiliate those who wish to 'better themselves.'

    Allowing youngsters to leave school with poor verbal skills consigns them to the social and employment backwaters and liberal educationalists and social engineers have done our society a huge disservice by trying to reduce the importance and value of clear spoken English.

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  • 95. At 11:15am on 23 Jan 2009, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    I always thought I had adopted 'folk' from my Scottish neighbours...

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  • 96. At 11:44am on 23 Jan 2009, DI_Wyman wrote:

    What a silly woman!

    The diversity of accents adds to the rich tapestry of life.

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  • 97. At 12:15pm on 23 Jan 2009, RxKaren wrote:

    I'm with DiY - I love the variety.

    I particularly enjoyed the accent on the relaxation tape someone bought for me. I heard it for the first time last night. I laughed solidly for 27 minutes. It didn't help me sleep though.

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  • 98. At 1:07pm on 23 Jan 2009, caledd wrote:


    What with all this doom and gloom, this has really cheered me up ... like!

    As with accents, and more enjoyably dialect, people's opinions are also part of the rich tapestry.

    Mine changes hour by hour depending on whom I am speaking with ;-)

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  • 99. At 1:20pm on 23 Jan 2009, Gladys_Friday wrote:

    I like it when Eddie says "search engine".

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  • 100. At 1:22pm on 23 Jan 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    I like it when Eddie says 'murder'.

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  • 101. At 1:29pm on 23 Jan 2009, Mrs Effingham wrote:

    Eddie - I think Noel Coward came from Liverpool.

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  • 102. At 1:30pm on 23 Jan 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Cary Grant came from Bristol. Do you think that added to his charm? I've always found the Bristol Burr very attractive ...

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  • 103. At 1:44pm on 23 Jan 2009, Sherlock_Cambridge wrote:

    She is spot on. The Beatles are an interesting case -- if you listen to early interviews with them they do not have the vocal distortions of modern Liverpudlian. Nowadays "back" and "book" seem to b pronounced as "bacH" and "boocH" (a Scots like consonant). Not with the Beatles. Nor with Doddy and the Diddymen.

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  • 104. At 2:00pm on 23 Jan 2009, KateOMara wrote:

    I like Eddie.

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  • 105. At 2:02pm on 23 Jan 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    What about getting Loyd Grossman on the show to discuss this further ??

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  • 106. At 2:02pm on 23 Jan 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Kate: Isn't it a bit cool for you at the moment?

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  • 107. At 2:07pm on 23 Jan 2009, U12196018 wrote:

    Loyd Grossman?? Now there's someone who can really strangle words. "Nahr, hoe laives in ar haurse laik theis?"

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  • 108. At 2:08pm on 23 Jan 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    He's East Coast, I believe, Loon, though it's not a form of speech I ever met there. I suspect it's caused by regular consumption of pasta sauces.

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  • 109. At 2:12pm on 23 Jan 2009, hamason wrote:

    in the sixties it was thought cool to have a North of England accent but in particularly a Liverpudlian accent, largely due to the popualrity of the Beatles and various films starring Albert Finney for example.
    Alot of the charm and enduring popularity of the Beatels songs was due their accent in some of the songs.
    The world will become a very boring place if every English speaking person spoke with the same accent.

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  • 110. At 2:14pm on 23 Jan 2009, Mrs Effingham wrote:

    How about this...?

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  • 111. At 2:18pm on 23 Jan 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Doesn't seem to work, Mrs Effingham, but the thought of a 'Brian Sewell' widget to read one's text messages is very amusing..

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  • 112. At 2:23pm on 23 Jan 2009, RxKaren wrote:

    QL(107) Always reminds me of Charlie the Cat

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  • 113. At 2:48pm on 23 Jan 2009, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    What fun! I get posts moderated off the board for using words the mods don't like and reckon are likely to 'offend others', but it seems to be fine by them if someone here makes an attack on Beryl Bainbridge as a person and calls her an old trout, or whatever else. Clearly they don't think she can be offended! :-)

    My feeling, for what it's worth, is that regional accents are perfectly fine in their own region, but if they are so 'thick' that people in another region can't understand what you're saying, then if you go moving to the region where they aren't understood it is up to you to change the way you speak if you want to be able to get along -- and for region read also 'place within the accented region', too: a railway announcer who speaks with a thick accent won't be much use to people travelling through Birmingham New Street from Cornwall to Glasgow and having accents from anywhere between those points except for Brummie, after all. It's not that much different from expecting to speak French in France if you go and live there and be understood by the locals. A Geordie in Cornwall probably won't be understood by the locals if s/he speaks only Geordie.

    Since we are lucky enough in England to have one language that is likely to be understood all over the country, we can get round the difficulty by speaking that language -- and whether we like it or not, it comes with a 'received pronunciation'. Slight variation is fine, but if we get too far from RP and people don't understand us, that's probably up to us not to them, and we ought to be the ones to change and make sense to them.

    I know plenty of places where my Yorkshire, my Devon, my Reading, or my London accent has not been understood, but I don't know anywhere in England (or come to that Scotland or Wales or Ireland) where my RP has not been understood. The difficulty has always been me, the outsider, not understanding a local. (When I'm in York or Totnes or Reading or Uxbridge I tend towards the local accent, since I can, but in say Norwich I'd be silly to use any of them.)

    So it seems to me that knowing RP and being able to speak something approaching it is an advantage, and not being able to would make it difficult for anyone who wanted to make themselves clear to someone who wasn't familiar with (say) Cornish or Swansea or Scouse.

    See the Burns Night edition of the Beach for plenty of dialect words from the Lowlands of Scotland, and nobody feeling any need to call each other nasty names for using (or not using) them, anyhow.

    Oh, and Big Sister @ 102, *which* 'Bristol burr'? My Bristolian born-and-bred builder tells me there are two quite distinct accents in Bristol, and that when he moved from one end of the city to the other at the age of ten all the locals at his new school teased him something rotter for 'talking funny' until he adapted to the new accent -- which having the sense God promised to a doorknob at the Beginning he did within a term. :-) He now uses either, depending which bit of town he's working in and what the people he's talking with speak.

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  • 114. At 3:19pm on 23 Jan 2009, U12196018 wrote:

    Mrs Eff (110) - Brilliant! Especially the black eunuch and the sliced cucumber on the first sampler!

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  • 115. At 3:23pm on 23 Jan 2009, Giftmacher wrote:

    For anyone genuinely interested, you can always listen to archive recordings of regional accents here:


    No Liverpool accent in the collection, but some accents are surprisingly hard to understand and quite different from their modern counterparts.


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  • 116. At 3:23pm on 23 Jan 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Chris (113) Now don't you go getting specialist on me! ;o)

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  • 117. At 3:43pm on 23 Jan 2009, DI_Wyman wrote:

    A warm welcome back to KateOMara, to be sure!

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  • 118. At 4:07pm on 23 Jan 2009, hilodown wrote:

    It looks like we are pretty much agreed that she was talking nonsense.
    Everyone can have his/her likes and dislikes about different accents, and that includes RP. It can seem "clearer" because we are all so used to hearing it, but I heard a BBC lady yesterday talking about "going to court" which she pronounced as "going to caught". There is nothing particularly "clear" about that.
    There is an overpreponderance of "awe" sounds in RP - so it is not a superior model to follow.

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  • 119. At 4:16pm on 23 Jan 2009, oldbatblogger wrote:

    I quite agree with Beryl Bainbridge. I speak RP, with a hint of flat vowels due to being schooled in Cambridge. My late husband's family (we were a second marriage) can all use RP, but don't. They choose a kind of mockney, glottal stops and all. Their vocabularies are very limited, due to rarely reading anything except tabloid newspapers. Bring back elocution lessons---I had them too!

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  • 120. At 4:33pm on 23 Jan 2009, Mrs Effingham wrote:

    According to Eddie (pictured top right) there'll be plenty on this topic in today's PM.

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  • 121. At 4:57pm on 23 Jan 2009, jackhigh2747 wrote:

    The different accents in this, and every other country are what makes a country interesting. Have you heard a New Yorker or a Texan talking? It's the difference that make language interesting
    The only problem I have with the spoken word nowadays in this country, is that the teaching of the English Language since the late seventies, have meant that every word is now spoken phonetically , ...this leads to pronouning the word incorrectly in many cases, I now wonder if a dictionary still uses the symbols to denote the inflections and natural breaks in words to enable us to pronounce them properly.
    For many of us in the autumn of our lives just listening to the radio for 15 minutes will soon tell you that pronouniation is no longer important to our modern day society.

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  • 122. At 5:15pm on 23 Jan 2009, ChrisTrawin wrote:

    I think it’s most unfair of Beryl Bainbridge to pick on the people of Liverpool in this way. There are lots of towns and cities in the north of England with ghastly and impenetrable accents.

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  • 123. At 5:17pm on 23 Jan 2009, U13794858 wrote:

    I am throughly in favour of elocution lessons at school, however I suspect that it might be impossible to introduce them. My children were at a small village school some twenty years ago. They were starting to drop 't's 'h's and 'd's. We asked the head teacher to pick them up on this while they were at school as we always picked them up when they were at home. We were told that the teachers could not do this because if they picked my children up they would have to pick up all the children and other parents might not appreciate this. If political correctness was that bad twenty years ago think of the uproar there would be now if schools tried to introduce elocution lessons.

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  • 124. At 5:27pm on 23 Jan 2009, regaltoffeenose wrote:

    Re: 119. Oh dear oldbatblogger. I think there's a split infinitive in there.

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  • 125. At 5:32pm on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    C_G 113, We had a very nice trout on Tuesday. Grilled. "You'll talk if I shine this light in your eyes!"

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  • 126. At 5:34pm on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    BS 108, I believe it is from some small area of Boston. One street.

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  • 127. At 5:36pm on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    EI 95, Maybe that's where Americans got it from. Scots who emigrated.

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  • 128. At 5:37pm on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    I like the way Gordon Brown says 'says'. Or not.

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  • 129. At 5:51pm on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    Eddie, What does 'airly' mean?

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  • 130. At 5:53pm on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    I wish people would stop quoting other people. Can't they think of anythng original to say? (I'll bet he looked it up.)

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  • 131. At 5:56pm on 23 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    Michael Aspel don't sound nuffink like that now.

    Oooooo, oooooo, nooooo, awfternoooooon.

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  • 132. At 6:11pm on 23 Jan 2009, victoriavandal wrote:

    Any scouser over the age of thirty who no longer lives in the city: go back, and try and have a conversation with someone under 25. Go on, try it. They might as well be speaking Inuit - and they will be unemployable anywhere outside a ten mile radius of the city. That might not be an issue if this was 1320, but it's 2009.

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  • 133. At 6:15pm on 23 Jan 2009, mrs-nostalgie wrote:

    This is being discussed vigorously on the Archers MB too, and there too there is a clear split between those who heard what BB actually said, & those who heard only 'accents being criticised', which was not what she was doing.
    Surely she was making a plea for clear, articulate, comprehensive speech? Who can object to that? I love my friend's Liverpool accent, as BB does, but cannot understand what she described as 'the Scouse whine'. All British accents are colourful & interesting; but the recent development of some of them into strangulated, muttered droning interspersed with 'y'know' (as the playwright did 6 times in the first 30 seconds of his response to BB,), 'd'yer see wha' I mean' & 'at the end of the day', has rendered them impoverished & ugly.
    Beryl blames the soaps. I'm not so sure. As a teacher in the Midlands for many years, (and with the crossed S. London/Leicestershire accent to show for it,) I remember being called to account in 1975 by an Inspector barely older than me for helping a girl express herself more grammatically, as I might have been 'inhibiting her right to use a regional dialect'. This attitude soon took grammar & the use of speech out of the English curriculum until a generation later, to the detriment of a whole generation of children, who no longer have the tools to speak or think clearly.

    And I would like to object strongly to message 6 & the 'daft old lady' comment, which was ageist & offensive. The writer is one of those who did not listen to Beryl.

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  • 134. At 7:13pm on 23 Jan 2009, Peter Lees wrote:

    We moved into a small town in Somerset some 20 years ago. Through the local church we got to know a family group of 4 sisters, all in their seventies and all living within 100 yards of where they were born (one, I believe, slept in the bed in which she had been born).
    Three were spinsters or widows, one had been married for over 50 years to a man who had been born in a village three miles away but had lived in the same house in our village ever since.
    We were introduced to this gentleman by one sister (not his wife) who apologised for him saying "'You 'ave to excuse 'e -'e doo be fru Kolfud und so 'e doo speak funny"

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  • 135. At 7:33pm on 23 Jan 2009, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    DMcN @ 125


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  • 136. At 7:44pm on 23 Jan 2009, Giftmacher wrote:

    Mrs-nostalgie, if Beryl was issuing a plea for clear, articulate, comprehensive speech (sic) why did she claim the Liverpool accent "isn't a proper accent" and use words like "the most hideous accent of all"; her language was rather too pejorative to be a simple appeal for clarity. Moreover, the criticism was applied rather too unequally to be considered fair (Liverpool getting the worst, with a token complaint about Glasgow). Where, for example, did London feature?

    We’re not all sensitive to the same things. Indeed, you take exception to the ageist comments on this blog, can’t you accept that the way Beryl expresses her opinions may cause similar offence? Furthermore, what does it say about Beryl if a person’s accent "sounds uneducated" to her? We wouldn't normally applaud anyone who publicly announced their prejudices, even when they are piggy-backed on legitimate objections…


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  • 137. At 8:05pm on 23 Jan 2009, Giftmacher wrote:

    How odd, does the message board software usually splice in question marks?


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  • 138. At 8:54pm on 23 Jan 2009, mrs-nostalgie wrote:

    I am trying to answer post 136, but the blog doesn't like my accent; however I write my first line, it tells me
    'there is a problem. You have mistyped some HTML at the data root level on line 1'
    Goobledegarbage to me, especially as my 3 different versions of my line 1 were all simple English!

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  • 139. At 9:34pm on 23 Jan 2009, mrs-nostalgie wrote:

    I need to listen again, perhaps, Gift, but I thought it was the modern Liverpool accent she criticised, the 'Scouse Whine', for which she blamed Brookside, not 'the accent of John Lennon'. It would certainly have been offensive had she criticised having an accent, but she didn't. It was the ill-educated effect given by language poorly expressed in a slurred, nasal fashion to which she objected. (Much as Billy Connelly does, in his magnificent Glaswegian, about the more difficult, impoverished version.) Perhaps next week she'll move on to the yoof version of Cockney, a once-vivid dialect, now degraded to glottal stops & cliche, or to the okay-yah sneer of other London areas.
    (OK, I've taken out an often-used bit of Latin & the accent on cliche, let's see if this posts.)

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  • 140. At 11:05pm on 23 Jan 2009, Shogun Pete wrote:

    The rain in Spain stays mainly in Liverpool. There are far more important things for teachers to spend their time instructing school children than how to change their accents.

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  • 141. At 11:18pm on 23 Jan 2009, janged wrote:

    I have lived in Liverpool for most of my life- for almost 27 years actually- since I came to college from North Wales when I was 18. I am a teacher at a primary school and a mother of three children and although I don't mind the Liverpool accent, I do object to the widespread ropey grammar that has become part of it. My own children have Liverpudlian accents (stronger when they've been with certain friends) which is inevitable but I put my foot down at the slang that accompanies it: because that's what makes people sound stupid. It is a necessary social skill to communicate in a way that is understood universally and arrogant to assume otherwise.

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  • 142. At 11:22pm on 23 Jan 2009, janged wrote:

    Sorry- I also wanted to say that the children I teach learn their bad grammar from their parents. I could correct the children at school but what's the point?

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  • 143. At 11:54pm on 23 Jan 2009, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Gift and Mrs Nostalgia,

    The blog softwar has some funny ways. It inserts a question mark for some characters which may be 'pasted in' from other editing softwar (notepad, wurd, etc.) or from other web pages,

    Mrs Nostalgia, it really doesn't like ampersands (&), so if you're in the habit of using them, you'll have to substitute, '+' or 'and', or even &

    More info here

    Good luck

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  • 144. At 12:11pm on 24 Jan 2009, Giftmacher wrote:

    Thanks Ed, I didn't realise HTML applied here (it doesn't seem to on the BBC message boards). Anyway, now I know I'll stop typing my posts in Word.

    Thanks again,


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  • 145. At 12:56pm on 24 Jan 2009, brian_barker wrote:

    There is essentially no difference between a dialect and a language. In this respect Liverpudlian can be considered a minority language!
    As the "International Year of Languages" comes to an end on 21st February, you may be interested in the contribution, made by the World Esperanto Association, to UNESCO's campaign for the protection of endangered languages.

    The commitment to the campaign to save endangered languages was made, by the World Esperanto Association at the United Nations' Geneva HQ in September.
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=eR7vD9kChBA&feature=related or http://www.lernu.net

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  • 146. At 1:33pm on 24 Jan 2009, brian_barker wrote:

    There is no difference between a dialect and a language.

    I fear to think then what Beryl would think of the global language, Esperanto.

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  • 147. At 3:24pm on 24 Jan 2009, seboygermany wrote:

    I found Beryl Bainbridge's comments both laughable and, I'm afraid, a little sad. She is clearly carrying a lot of psychological baggage from her past. Her responses in the interview were full of tired clichés coloured with inverted snobbery and class bias, many contradictions and a complete misunderstanding of the natural evolution of dialect. She is of course entitled to dislike an accent for whatever reason (probably personal) she chooses but she has no empirical basis for her hypothesis that there is a right and a wrong way to pronounce words. For that reason she cannot claim that the Irish accent is acceptable but the Liverpudlian accent is not. Perhaps she would like all Liverpudlians to have elocution lessons in Irish. Ah, but which variant of the Irish accent? I am from N. Ireland myself. Should it be from Belfast, Dublin, Fermanagh, North Antrim or Donegal? I'll bet she doesn't know all those variants. I am currently living in Germany and can tell you that there is as much if not more regional variation in accent/dialect amongst the 16 different states here as there is in the United Kingdom. You rarely find German people claiming that there should be only one way to pronounce their language.

    Finally, may I suggest that Beryl google's the term "Queen's English". She will find an infinite number of articles relating to a research paper written by my husband, a Professor of Phonetics, indicating that even the Queen herself has been unable to prevent changes in her vowel sounds over the last 50 years. Indeed, Eddie Mair himself interviewed my husband on this very matter back in December 2006. Pity he didn't remember that when he was interviewing her.

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  • 148. At 4:39pm on 24 Jan 2009, Young Bill wrote:

    Famous quotations seem to me to lack the fluency of the modern idiom, and must therefore have less impact when heard or read by the with-it person of today. I have taken the liberty of bringing a few up to date by adding contemporary language in places:
    Power tends to kind of corrupt and absolute power, like, corrupts absolutely, so to speak. Lord Acton, 1887
    That's clearly one small step for a man, one giant, you know, leap for mankind, to be honest. Neil Armstrong, 1969
    In the beginning, basically, was the Word. Bible (St John's Gospel)
    If I should, like, die, think only this of me: that there's some corner of a foreign field, sort of, that is forever, so to speak, England. Rupert Brooke, 1914
    It is necessary only for the good man, to be honest, to do nothing for, you know, evil to triumph. Edmund Burke
    Clearly, the best laid schemes o' mice an' men, if you like, Gang aft a-gley. Robert Burns, 1796
    Basically I have nothing to offer, as it were, but blood, toil, tears and, if you like, sweat. Winston Churchill, 1940
    Mad dogs and, like, Englishmen go out, to be honest, in the midday sun.
    Noël Coward, 1931
    Genius is sort of one per cent inspiration, ninety nine per cent perspiration, so to speak. Thomas Alva Edison, c.1903
    I know that, to be honest, I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but clearly I have the heart and stomach of a king, and, to be honest, of a king of England too, basically. Elizabeth I, 1588
    Give me, you know, liberty, or give me, you know, death! Patrick Henry, 1775
    If you can keep, so to speak, your head when all about you are losing theirs and like blaming it on you. Rudyard Kipling, 1910
    England expects that every man will basically do his duty, if you like.
    Horatio Nelson, 1805
    Hope kind of springs eternal in, you know, the human breast.
    Alexander Pope, 1733
    O what a tangled web, so to speak, we weave, when first we like practise to like deceive. Sir Walter Scott, 1808
    To be, basically, or not to be: clearly that is the question.
    William Shakespeare, 1601
    The lady, to be honest, is not for turning, so to speak.
    Margaret Thatcher, 1980

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  • 149. At 4:57pm on 24 Jan 2009, Giftmacher wrote:

    Hats off to Young Bill. Marvellous innit?


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  • 150. At 5:12pm on 24 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    EI 143, The Amper is a river in Germany. Very nice sand there, I understand.

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  • 151. At 7:25pm on 24 Jan 2009, fish-on-legs wrote:

    Finally managed to get signed in - which is why this is a tad late.

    I heard this, but missed who was speaking, and couldn't believe the twaddle that the so-posh-she-couldn't-pronounce woman was saying. Working class children in her father's day given elocution lessons? My great-aunt Fanny. And why beat up the Liverpudlians? I'm sick of hearing people in East Kent speaking as if their jaws have been broken (the real local accent, sadly dying out, has a gentle burr) or teenagers speaking with cod Jamaican accents. How very gangsta.

    I am all for people speaking clearly, but I'm not in favour of the varnished accent over your real one. We don't all want to sound like the Queen (no offence, Ma'am). Beryl - get over yourself!

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  • 152. At 10:33am on 25 Jan 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    b_b 146, Is Esperanto any more global than English?

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  • 153. At 11:12am on 25 Jan 2009, Sid wrote:

    b-b (146) your suggestion that there is no difference between a dialect and a language is utterly mistaken.

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  • 154. At 11:25pm on 25 Jan 2009, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Sid @ 153, where does a patois fit in with the other two?

    I heard a programme about this once on R4, but it was many years ago and in retrospect I think may have been mostly about variations of Pidgen.

    Of which one of my favourite examples is 'big feller box, you hit im teeth ee cry'.

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  • 155. At 10:05am on 26 Jan 2009, theresa-ann wrote:

    Lovely diction, shame about the grammar - I think, Beryl, you'll find that it is try TO, not try AND.

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  • 156. At 11:17am on 26 Jan 2009, hilodown wrote:

    On the language and dialect question. Isn't a language a covering word for all its dialects? Does every dialect (including RP) not form part of the language?

    Some dialects - it would seem - are higher up the totem pole, depending on the criteria used to evaluate them. Among other criteria is that of brute political power. Hugh Macdiarmid put this as follows:
    "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy."

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  • 157. At 1:49pm on 26 Jan 2009, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    theresa-ann @ 155

    "I think, Beryl, you'll find that it is try TO, not try AND. "

    Well, to be strictly fair, one *can* use 'try' followed by 'and', but it needs a comma.

    The difference would be between 'try to succeed' (attempt something but possibly fail) and 'try, and succeed' (attempt something with no possibility of failure).

    'Try and talk proper' is generally wrong and sloppy and deplorable, but being fair grammar isn't what Beryl was on about; she was being upset over incomprehensible speech that made her home-town get looked down on by people who find that somehow less interesting than speech they can understand.

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  • 158. At 12:21pm on 27 Mar 2009, mikeyfurb wrote:

    Beryl Bainbridge does seem to enjoy stirring up this particular hornet's nest periodically; usually when she's got a new book out?

    However, I've just moved back to Merseyside after 20 year living away and the accent does seem to have got more impenetrable. It has become what linguists refer to as a 'Limited code', in that it doesn't transfer well to other regions. A slight regional accent can be detected in the voices of a number of broadcasters without any detrimental effect on the listener. It's when an accent alienates the listener that it becomes a problem, broadly speaking.

    As someone who teaches English as a Foreign Language I'm well aware that all language use involves variety and evolution and you'd have to be crazy (or French) to try to throw a protective tarpaulin over a language by trying to provide such a narrow definition as 'good' and 'bad' usage.

    Despite this, the BAinbridge comments can be backed up by evidence from Socio-Linguists that certain regional accents get a more negative response than others in call centres etc Scouse and Brummie being examples of this.

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  • 159. At 8:08pm on 22 Jul 2009, JIML12 wrote:


    I can understand her being offended by Bainbridge's remarks but they need to be taken in context. I am 63, born in Liverpool though I have until recently been living away for 35 years and incidentally not as those who would knock Scousers 'in prison' but rather working in the city of London. I actually originate from Scotland Road and those who would know Liverpool would understand the area to which I am referring.

    I have interviewed a young lady today for employment and have set down a condition of elocution lessons before I will employ her. I regularly cannot understand what those who speak with the so called Liverpool accent, say. It is not a Scouse accent but some sort of mimic of an inderterminate need to say 'look at me'. Perhaps a bit like those of the 50s and 60s who cultivated an accent based on an overdose of cowboy films.

    I am embarassed to be in this position but the person concerned has loads of ambition and potential, but needs to speak English so that the world at large can understand her

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  • 160. At 11:00pm on 14 Oct 2009, NewellLFC wrote:

    I'm from N.Ireland and I have lived in Scotland since I was 4 although I still have a slight Irish accent it has been mixed with a Fife accent and a little York as I lived there for a year and now my accent sounds horrible. Whenever I speak at home though I get back my lovely Irish accent but as soon as I'm with friends the horrible accent comes back.

    I love my Irish accent and I don't like people who are above themselves - who put down a nice accent.

    It's a great shame that the Liverpool accent is deemed as unacceptable for this women as I hardly class her *POSH* accent as real.

    It sounds so put on it's unbelievable!

    Although I have to admit I understand Fernando Torres more than Steven Gerrard in an after match interview.


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