Just because I sound ‘posh’ doesn’t mean I went to private school

Pronouncing your ‘t’s doesn’t necessarily mean that daddy bought your education


You’re at a party and mingling. You spark up conversation with someone random and you realise you’ve got things in common. You’re chatting away, both sipping cans and puffing on rollies, when they suddenly say: “You sound posh. Did you go to private school?”

It was only an attempt by them to carry on a friendly conversation, but you feel yourself recoil as you start blurting out excuses: “Oh no, I’m just from the home counties. I went to a state school, I promise. I’m normal. My parents don’t have excessive money they were willing to flaunt on my education. I don’t think I’m better than you. Please don’t hate me for it.”

There’s something about private schooling which smacks like an insult once you get to uni. Everyone’s from different backgrounds, and those who went to any school other than the one divvied up by the council are practically vilified for the fact they had an expensive – and therefore assumed superior – education which automatically got them the grades for university. They didn’t work as hard as the state school kids did; they didn’t have to.

I never attended a private school. In fact, my dad’s a cab driver and my mum works the phones in the taxi office. I attended a very normal comprehensive state school with a very polyester uniform and the only money which was ever thrown at my education was the year 9 residential trip to Disneyland. But I’m from West Sussex – the land of proper language, rich vowels and staccato ‘t’s. I won’t lie, I sound proper as fuck.

My state school self with my state school friends. Now fuck off

I have no expensive upbringing to be ashamed of, and yet I still feel the need to defend myself when someone comments on my accent. And why should I even need to defend myself in the first place? So what if I was private schooled? Does that automatically mean I’m a bitch? Yeah, I’ve met some pricks that went to schools their parents paid for, but I’ve also met similar people that went to comprehensives.

When someone says “you sound posh,” it translates to the person being told as “you sound as if you think you’re better than everyone else”. People assume private school kids have their heads stuck so much up their own arses as a result of the spoilt brat stereotype bred on rugby fields and cricket lawns across the country. As a result, whenever such a comment is made, those of us with well-spoken accent but normal upbringings immediately jump on the defensive and declare the fact we’re not, as if even the suggestion that we were well off is enough to tarnish our good-person reputations.

Speaking in a way which could be seen as “proper” is seen as an immediate indicator that they’re going to be someone you’d rather not know. When I came to uni, the people I at first clicked with either had strong East London accents, or were from Northern Ireland. I immediately felt myself slurring into an increasingly estuary accent in an attempt to mask my own upbringing, dropping ‘t’s and loosening my vowels as if I was from London or Kent.

It was an attempt to make myself seem more approachable, more likeable, as if my accent was immediately going to put my new flatmates off me. My own accent alterations were, of course, entirely forced and immediately disappeared the second I forgot to maintain them. But I was ashamed.

I’m not a rich bitch. In fact, I dressed up as a rich bitch for halloween

Why should I have to be self-conscious of my accent? Accent stereotypes are boring and outdated and realistically shouldn’t be an issue for our generation. If we’re all as liberal and we say we are, we wouldn’t be discriminating or making judgements about people based on how they speak – public school, or not public school. And yet a well spoken person is consistently judged as rude, a bitch, or completely boring.

Last week, I was telling someone I wanted to be a journalist when they told me that I should be “a reporter like on the BBC Breakfast Show. You’ve got the proper voice for it.” Thanks. The most middle-aged, middle-class, infinitely boring job in the world. Yeah, Susanna Reid & co probably have a very kushty life. But then again, Piers Morgan is also a breakfast presenter and he’s the last person I fancy being associated with as a result of my accent.

It’s 2017. Don’t you think it’s time we stop shitting on people with posh accents and actually go after the real obnoxious idiots who are obnoxious bigots, and not just those who maybe talk like them?