NOT another bloody “ism”……….please God save me from these academics

People with regional accents should be protected from “accentism” alongside the fight against racism, ageism and sexism because it makes them feel “fake” when they “posh up” while talking, it has been claimed.

Employers should state in writing that job applicants’ accents will not be used against them and application forms should request applicants to “state their accent” alongside other identities such as gender, sexual orientation, religion, age and race (they will also be asked to state their inside leg measurement and whether they stir their tea clockwise or anti-clockwise) according to Manchester University linguist, Dr Alex Baratta who says accentism is the “last taboo” alongside discrimination on other grounds like colour or sex.

Dr Baratta, based at the University’s Manchester Institute of Education said: “We should acknowledge that any form of workplace discrimination, to include accentism, should not be tolerated in a society which seeks to be more inclusive.

“This is why ‘accentism’ should be taken seriously as a problem which affects many of us.

“Clearly, most people modify their accent not because they lack pride in it, quite the opposite in fact. It’s actually because they fear the negative perceptions others might have of them if they don’t, especially in work-related contexts.”

Dr Baratta, who is from Los Angeles, added (ah, we now get to the heart of this, who but an American would come up with such drivel) : “As with George Bernard Shaw’s quote, ‘It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.’

“I don’t know if one prejudice is better then the other, you’re the wrong colour, the wrong sex, wrong age, wrong accent.” His call to battle accentism comes after his research claims to show people who “posh up” their accent feel themselves as frauds or fakes.

Though accent modification is common, Dr Baratta said it can threaten the way we feel about personal identity, often causing anger and frustration (so he is now a qualified psychologist as well as a linguist!)

Workplace meetings with ‘posh’ sounding senior managers, he says, can be especially stressful for an individual with a more pronounced regional accent along with job interviews and even speaking on the phone, he said.

Dr Baratta’s research is based on an ongoing survey of children, students and staff from different institutions and schools, involving 98 people so far.

It reveals that while most accept the practice, a third of respondents say they feel like a fraud when they consciously modify their accent.

Though accent modification and the relationship between accent and identity are well researched, it is the first time anyone has attempted to investigate how accent modification in Britain affects the way we feel about ourselves.

Dr Baratta added: “Many Brits consciously modify their accent in social situations as a means to create a better impression – he forgets to take account of the fact that most of us modify our speech to take account of the needs of the person we are speaking to e.g. I will lapse back into Lancashire dialect when speaking to any of my immediate family.

“While this is a common practice, we should not assume that it is accepted by all speakers without issue.

“As part of my ongoing research, many participants see accent modification as synonymous with selling out and a clear threat to their sense of self.

“This is especially true in education, where teachers in particular may feel pressure to modify their regional accent in order to be perceived in a more positive light by students and fellow staff alike.

“My point is perfectly illustrated by an Ofsted inspector who last year told a Cumbrian teacher working in a Berkshire school to sound ‘more southern’.”

Examples revealed by Dr Baratta’s research include a teacher from Rossendale, Lancashire, “felt disgusted” with himself for modifying his accent at a job interview, a Mancunian woman felt “fake, angry and upset” for modifying her accent with her lecturers, and believes she is “betraying” who she really is and a Liverpudlian stated that accent modification, mostly practised in business contexts, leaves him feeling “whipped”……………aw, poor little lambs!!!!!!!!

This entry was posted in Bullying, Children, Culture, Discrimination, Employability, Equality, Humour, Language, Psychology, Stress, UK Regions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to NOT another bloody “ism”……….please God save me from these academics

  1. Alex says:

    As the author of the piece you comment on (i.e. Alex Baratta), I take your points. Political correctness can be taken too far – we both seem to agree on this. I love your title, by the way! However, perhaps making your points a bit more maturely might help to win support. It seems only Americans can come up with such ‘drivel’? I’m not opposed to the ‘drivel’ remark, nor the national identity reference, but come on – an entire nation? Despite what you might be thinking, I’m not crying prejudice now on the grounds now of ‘national origin-ism’. I should also point out that I’m not a psychologist at all – the responses regarding identity issues were from the respondents themselves, not me. They told me they feel ‘fake’, ‘phony’ and such – I’m just reporting it, that’s all. Anyway, I do enjoy a good debate and take your opinions on board. All I would say is it does help to have your facts in place first.


  2. kindadukish says:

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my “provocative” little blog, and yes I do apologise for the “national stereotype” but you do have to admit the amount of rubbish that emanates from the good old USA relating to “isms”, self help, you can be anything you want to be (no, you bloody can’t) would fill several hundred bookshelves and 95% of it lacking in research validity.
    I was once contacted by the Tony Robbins organisation about attending the “fire walking” programme and I asked for empirical evidence that the programme worked…………deathly silence in response.
    I note that the three examples you quote are all from people in the North, a Lancastrian (of which I am one), a Mancunian and a Scouser but in my 60+ years I have never met a Northener who has been ashamed of their accent.
    At one time it was considered “de rigeur” to speak RP English but those times changed. Why, in the 60s you even had broadcasters speaking with regional accents (shock horror with the London glitterati).
    I suspect the feelings expressed by the people you quote are about more deep seated personal issues with “accent” being a convenient vehicle for complaint (and no, I am not a psychologist either, just a shrewd oberver of life and people).
    Your idea of asking for details of accent on an application form just seems ludicrous to me, I still have a strong Lancashire accent ( which gets taken for a Yorkshire accent because I have lived in the white rose county for over 30 and you have no idea how much of an insult that is to a “Red Rose man) but have worked in different parts of UK, Lithuania and Israel without any problem of feelings of inadequacy. Indeed, I tend to play up the accent on occasions as a means of making fun of people who have obviously “stereotyped” me as a thick northerner.
    So my apologies for any personal offence caused………….I just like a good debate / argument!
    Finally, I have nothing against Americans, after all my blog is named after Americas greatest composer Edward Kennedy Ellington


    • Alex says:

      Thanks for the ongoing posting. Again, I take your points on board, especially regarding the -ism culture, to an extent, in the USA. Having lived in both cultures, I can appreciate them both and see the downsides of both and how Brits can have a certain view of Americans (good and bad) and vice versa (and of course the misunderstandings on both sides of the Atlantic). As for the study, indeed no one was ashamed of their accent – very proud in fact. The issue seems to stem from a fear regarding what others will think of them/their accent, especially when they have been on the receiving end of negative comments or endless ‘jokes’ (e.g. Scousers and thievery) in the first place. I find it strange that foreign accents are a protected category (along with race, religion, for example), but British accents are not.


  3. kindadukish says:

    They are not protected because we don’t need them to be. We English tend not to be so far up our own backside over issues like this, unlike many people (particularly the religionists) we do not scream “I’m offended” at the slightest little bit of piss taking or mockery.
    We have a capacity to send ourselves up, something the Americans are totally incapable of, hence the fact our humour does not usually succeed in America……..or has to be rewritten to soften the often sarcastic, caustic and sometimes abusive nature of our humour.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love some American humour, I think the Big Bang Theory is sheer genius and is one of the few programmes that actually takes the piss out of a group in society i.e. the geeks / nerds in academia.
    I am sorry but I find this obsession with “isms” childish and creates a state of victimhood in many who are not victims, but like to think they are because of their own inadequacies.
    My accent (broad Lancashire dialect) was mocked when I started work at the age of 16, over the years the accent softened and modified in various jobs and living in different parts of the country.
    Living in Yorkshire can be a hazardous occupation with a Lancashire accent but one develops strategies to “tame” the locals.
    Thank you for your good intentions but as I stated at the outset “our accent doesn’t need protection as we are perfectly capable of defending it ourselves”


    • Alex Baratta says:

      Hi there

      It’s been a while since we spoke, but I’m the author of the piece you had commented on. Hope all is well with you. I’m writing now to get your permission to put a link to your blog on my personal website ( I fully believe in showing both sides of the coin so this would be a good addition. Thanks for your consideration.

      Alex Baratta


      • kindadukish says:

        Good afternoon Alex
        Nice to hear from you and I have no objection to putting a link to my blog.
        I would be interested to have a link to any further articles you have published on this topic as it is an interesting , and some would say, controversial one.
        With very best wishes
        Terry Gregory


        • Alex Baratta says:

          Thank you, Terry. I have placed the link to your blog on my website. The best thing would be to go to the site as this has all the links to my research via the media outlets.




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