What Cambridge has done to the Mancunian in me
Warning: this article contains generalisations, slang and repeated references to 90s alt rock
It was a weird holiday for me. On arriving home, I found myself drowned in incessant revision, balanced with far too frequent outings to my preferred danger pub (which quite frankly makes Saturday Spoons look like a Kensington coffee house). I found my caffeine tolerance surging, my alcohol tolerance plateauing and my tolerance for ‘keeping going’ sinking like a lead balloon.
There were revelations: the surfacing of my embarrassing Tab TV debut, my parents unfortunate discovery of my smoking habit and my adoption of culturally appropriative knitwear (ponchos are obscenely soothing). The strangest one of all though, I faced immediately upon stepping through the door.
‘What’s happened to your voice, you sound like a proper Northerner’ they told me, at which point I became painfully aware of my own accent. Somehow, eight weeks in the South’s comfiest county, surrounded primarily by North Londoners and international students had transformed me from the awfully middle class child I used to know, to some kind of abrasive Liam Gallagher caricature. Gone was the use of words like ‘mate’ and ‘food’ replaced with their unfortunate Mancunian cousins ‘r’kid’ and ‘scran’. I soon found myself purchasing round framed sunglasses and walking at an angle of about 20 degrees. I even changed my alarm from ‘Opening (default)’ to the Happy Monday’s regional anthem ‘Step On’. In short, I was ‘madferit’.
It surprised me. I’d never really had any accent of note, being sheltered from the less comprehensible dialects of my city by sheer middle classness. Being the son of a Scouser and a Scotswoman left my voice with no room to grow, so naturally it settled into the area of the sterile BBC North West Tonight presenters who preceded the unbelievably banal One Show every night.
Why then, had a term spent trying to decipher the southern lingo encompassing ‘peak’ ‘moist’ and ‘buttaz’ caused be to revert like some regressing species to ‘bobbins’ ‘sunshine’ and the admittedly more universal ‘shite’? The fear was always that I’d return from the South sounding like the guy from the Gap Yah videos. What had caused me to morph into the human form of a ’10 things you’ll know if you grew up in Manchester’ Buzzfeed cringe fest.
Maybe it was sheer stubbornness. I’ve never been a proud Mancunian, despite our (yes, including me) incredible cultural and industrial achievements. I always saw it as a regrettable start point before my inevitable move to London. But being surrounded by an endless sea of Londoners, international students and freshers who grew up in rural areas (presumably among sheep) awoke something in me. From within came some kind of City supporting, Oasis loving demon who wouldn’t let the Mancunian in me be crushed under a wave of ‘chirpse’ ‘banter’ and ‘wasteman’. So he revolted, put his mod jacket on, and started blasting The Stone Roses through the front room. I must bear the consequences…
As of yet, I’m undecided on whether this is a good thing. On one hand I’m supporting the mass pigeon-holing of northern students at the university, confirming what everyone assumes to be true about Manchester and probably damaging my prospects of employment. On the other hand, at least I’m not saying ‘chirpse’ (which to any Northern readers, means graft)
I’m less comprehensible, more obnoxious and have a bigger chip on my shoulder than ever before, but at least I can refer to my Belarusian neighbour as R’kid.