As a Newcastle Uni student, this is how I’ve experienced accent discrimination
I never thought saying tea instead of dinner would cause such a stir, it’s tea by the way
I was born and bred in the North of England for 18 years, Sheffield to be specific. I believed when I moved to Newcastle the majority of people would be northern like myself, I was quickly proven wrong when I realised the “Rah where’s my baccy?” girls are real and in full force.
Now, let’s talk about Fresher’s Week. One week before uni becomes university, the ultimate time to put yourself out there and make friends or, feel too scared to leave your room, just in case you bump into your flatmates. There’s a huge opportunity to meet new people and get the god-forsaken Fresher’s Flu – I have never recovered.
It was evident to me very quickly that the vast majority of the groups I was in had well-spoken posh people, and there I was sticking out like a sore thumb. Once they heard I was from Sheffield, some of them pulled an uncomfortable face or looked me dead in the eyes and said “Oooh that’s rough”.
I’m definitely not the type of person to wear an “I ❤️ Sheffield” t-shirt but the casual classism sometimes feels like a smack in the face. Other instances include someone telling me that they can’t understand what I’m saying because of my northern accent. I wanted sponsored silences to be my lifelong habit after that conversation.
Another lovely encounter I’ve had whilst at uni is people assuming I’m stupid. This is because I don’t always have correct grammar and am more likely to say runnin instead of running. My sighs of frustration never cease when I receive patronising corrections from Southerners around me. I have also been asked what my A-level results were to further prove that I do have some brain cells kicking about despite saying “iya” and calling everyone “love” 24/7.
My accent has been an important consideration ever since I decided to become a journalist. Based on the accent discrimination I have received at university, I felt like my academia has not been as valued in comparison to my southern peers.
For many years the BBC honoured the RP accent on their World Service channel. This taught people how to develop an RP British accent as it reflected intelligence and class. However, a Yorkshire accent which is largely colloquial and informal would have received negative connotations.
Within the last decade, more regional accents have been present in the media such as ex-footballer and football analyst Chris Kamara, originally from Middlesborough. Despite this change, there are still very prevalent stereotypes about northern accents and unfair treatment within the industry.
Recently on TikTok, a sound began trending of how southerners would perceive northern accents, specifically at uni. The user @mikebiddulph on TikTok created a fictional character named Willy Eckerslike based on northern accents, Willy said: “I’ll never forget that first day at pit”. When people compare me to this, I realise I’ve reached my peak. Despite this being humorous, it perpetuates a harsh stereotype that northern accents are working class which is a huge misconception.
So far, my experience at Newcastle University has been humbling, to say the least. As my career develops, I hope accent bias and mockery decrease. Nobody should ever be ridiculed for the way they speak, it’s out of your control.
And finally, my northern friends. I hear you, I see you and feel your pain. We should start charging hourly for being made to repeat ourselves. The days of people treating us like performing seals will come to an end, I hope.