It's the way we tell 'em

Regional accents, when I was a teenager were still pretty much a class clanger.

Regional accents, when I was a teenager were still pretty much a class clanger. Nice middle class grammar school girls like me spoke received English, and some of us - I am ashamed to say - had their birth accents drummed out of them by hideously bossy elocution teachers.

We were made to recite rhymes to train us to talk like what the posh people did.

I can still remember the one for poshening up your vowels - "Father's car is a Jaguar, and a very fast car it is." Even at the time it felt idiotic, but now of course it would be entirely counter productive.

Regional accents are now very trendy indeed. Now people with scottish, northern and Geordie accents come across as smart, canny and fashionable.

Look at the telly at the moment - Ant and Dec dominate ITV, the Geordie voice over in Big Brother dominates Channel 4, Alan Sugar's cockney Essex boy made good accent is applauded by one and all on the Apprentice on BBC 1.

The exception to regional accents becoming trendy is my own birth accent.

The Brummie accent. I can remember the first time I ever heard someone talk on the telly in a Brummie accent. It was in the Sixties, on a show on the BBC called Juke Box Jury.

This woman in the studio audience, Janice Nicholls, gave her verdict on the latest pop record and said, `I'll give it five.'

Phonetically speaking, it came out as `Oi'll geeve eet foive' and it became her catchphrase. Because everyone had a catchphrase back then.

Janice was so popular that they invited her to appear on the show every week after that. She put the Brummie accent on the map and in our innocence we all thought that we were going to be trendy.

After all, the Beatles had introduced the world to the Liverpool sound.

Silly us. People went on taking the mickey out Birmingham and the way we spoke. Janice faded from public view and took her accent with her.

With the Gordon Brown premiership nearly upon us, regional accents will get another sharp leg up on the establishment ladder.

Gordon Brown is at a distinct advantage when it comes to wowing the voters. He has a high credibility rating partly presumably because of his Scottish accent.

You get the feeling he wouldn't bother changing it for anyone.

Things have certainly changed since Maggie's day.

Mrs Thatcher, the upwardly mobile grocer's daughter from Grantham, was motivated to shed her native accent via grammar school, Oxbridge and the Conservative Party. She played by the Establishment rules for getting on in politics and ended up sounding more like a southerner than many southerners.

For some reason, being a Geordie is particularly cool these days, ever since Thelma and Bob started courting in The Likely Lads and James Bolam came on the telly with his full-on northeastern vowels in When the Boat Comes In (or When the `Boot' Comes In).

Gradually, the Geordies have won over the South and now you can't move for them.

I love the music of northern accents, the way they dance around.

They are so much more expressive than bland middle-class English.

If all the normal jobs were to disappear tomorrow, northerners would have no trouble hiring themselves out as professional storytellers probably funded by the Arts Council.

As well as having the gift of narration, northerners are quite affectionate when they speak to each other and this can add a special rhythm to what they say.

There are other regional words that I love and have started to adopt even though they have nothing to do with my roots.

I use them simply because I like them like `flarch', which is a West Cumbrian word for someone who is a bit of a fraud, or a creep. Or `doolally', meaning a bit bonkers.

My mother would always refer to Mrs Johnson over the road as being a bit `doolally' when she did something a bit mad and menopausal.

Mind you, she did run off with the bank manager and he turned out to be gay and she had to come home again


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer