Stop taking the piss out of my accent
I’m from norf weezy
I’ve been at Oxford for three years, and some of my home friends are still too terrified to visit.
Maybe it’s the political conversations over dinner. Maybe it’s the questionable choice of nightlife. Maybe it’s the alarming number of red chinos.
No – it’s because of the way we speak.
I’m from a state comprehensive in North London and come from a family of spoon-playing, rhyming slang-loving, pie mash and liquor-eating cockneys. So, as you might expect, I don’t have the “traditional” manner of articulation you’d expect from an Oxford student.
My accent was something that really concerned me before I came to Oxford, and very nearly stopped me from applying at all. I spent the week of my interviews pretending to be what is commonly accepted as “well-spoken”, avoiding the dreaded question of “so where do you go to school then?”.
During the time between getting my a-level results and coming to Oxford I seriously contemplated whether I should attempt to Eliza-Doolittle myself, or to just sod it and go full-on Norf Landan rude gal. Then I thought, sod it.
Throughout the first term I was pleasantly surprised. There were no comments about my dropped Ts, replacement of “doesn’t” for “don’t”, or even my overuse of ain’t. I was more than happy sharing my knowledge about the wonders of Lambrini, daggering and Pearly Kings & Queens.
Seventh week rolled in, acquaintances became friends, and I was enjoying my first guest dinner when BANG: “Don’t you mean waTER?” slapped me in the face from across the table.
At that moment, I didn’t just feel like I was being humiliated, but also my family and friends too – after all, that’s how we all spoke.
And just like that, my dream of a world where the rahs and bruhs of this city could live together in harmony was properly shat on.
The pretence of fresher’s term dissolved and my accent continued to become more comical. I could usually handle the playful teasing from my friends, and I still to this day embrace my college-given nickname of “Mercedez” (even when used by tute partners).
The mockery from strangers wasn’t quite so easy to shrug off. As you can imagine, being called a “typical fucking commoner” who “doesn’t know how to behave” for no good reason by a drunk rower in Camera can be a tad offensive.
But after first year, something odd began to happen.
Safe. Sick. Skeen. Allow. Alie. Dry. Dred. Long. Hype. Merk. Mans. Bare. Bless. Bro. Bait. Bangin. Dunnit. Init. Isit…you name it, everyone was saying it. It all became very in, very approved, very…posh. And very confusing.
The cause of this sudden change is still a mystery to me. Perhaps its a fear of sounding too “posh” in an increasingly privilege-shaming society. Perhaps it’s a by-product of the hipster trend. Perhaps for some it’s a v-James Dean “Rebel without a Cause” big two fingers up at your parents and background. What I do question is whether your new-found inner “commoner” sticks around when you head home for some Boujis-reminiscing? Will you be telling your potential future employer how “bless” your (insert wanky internship here) was in your (insert investment bank here) interview?
Regardless of reason, those who mocked such “blue-blooded murder of the English tongue” had also become homicidal in their day-to-day language. And my language didn’t feel so foreign any more.
But the reason for my acceptance soon became clear the day my ever-so-eloquent friend turned to me and said: “I feel like now I can say ‘init’ and not sound like a twat because I’m friends with you.”
Oh shit. I’m the token “common” friend. With me in tow, Etonians, Westminsters and Marlburians could bang on about how “dred” and “peak” the powder conditions were in Val-d’Isère last season and no one would bat an eye lid.
I don’t mind being the token “common” friend. I don’t mind people speaking in a way I was previously mocked for. I don’t mind listening to the painfully forced sicks and safes coming from a mouth full of marbles. What I do fucking mind is when the same people still correct me for not pronouncing my Ts.
It’s great to enjoy and adopt aspects of each others’ backgrounds, but it’s not okay to mock the ones that didn’t make the cut.
So next time you’re tempted to criticize someone for their pronunciation, grammar or accent, take a step back in your Reebok Classics and think.
At the end of the day, a nice glass of wa’er is best served without correction, ridicule or judgement.