A friend once asked me where I was born.
"Northampton" I replied.
"Ah yes. You've got a Northampton accent."
This remark mystified me somewhat. I've never really considered myself to have any kind of an accent - does anyone? - but given that I only spent the first 18 months of my life in Northampton and have spent almost no time there since, it seemed highly unlikely that the accent had somehow rubbed off on me.
My dad is from Plymouth and my mother is from Essex. I was at a boarding school between the ages of 7 and 18 and then I went to University, first in Warwick for three years and then in York. I lived in York for a year after completing my Masters degree and then moved down to Nottingham, where I've been ever since. I don't even know what a Northampton accent sounds like. It seems inconceivable to me that I have somehow got one.
Many years later, after I had been living in Nottingham for a few years, someone else asked me where I was born.
"Ah, that makes sense. You have an accent that sounds like it straddles the great vowel divide"
I didn't know what that was, but apparently it's an imaginary line drawn across the country between Bristol and the Wash and it acts as a sort of linguistic tipping point. You know, "sconn" on one side and "scone" on the other.
"I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone."
For reference, I say "sconn". But I also say "barth", and "H" is an aitch and not a haitch. And, for my American friends, it's also definitely ALUMINIUM. There's a whole extra syllable, you know.
Anyway. I mention this because I think I am largely without accent. Received pronunciation. I realise that this is likely what everyone thinks, but in my case I think it's true. English, for sure, but other than that, rather more difficult to pin down to any specific location.
....except that this evening, I warmly greeted someone with a broad "'EY OOP". I didn't add the "me duck" onto the end of the sentence, but I might just as well have done. I've lived in Nottingham now for 15 years, longer than I've ever lived anywhere else in my life and it appears the accent is finally rubbing off on me.
Hmm. I'm not at all sure how I feel about that.
A good introduction to the dialect can be found here. Sample quote:
"To the outsider, the Nottingham accent might make the person speaking it sound thicker than Barry White's shit on Boxing Day morning, but don't kid yersen; it’s actually the most complex dialect in the UK., drawing in and absorbing speech patterns and slang from Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire and the South before spitting them back out in a concentrated stream of inflection, tone, tempo and swearing."
Perhaps I should just relax into my fate.
Yer get meh, me ode fookin dookeh?