The class-based tyranny of accents

The class-based tyranny of accents

Accents give away so much about a person’s origins, and yet there seems to be a stumbling block here. Accents are viewed in much the same way as a person’s standard of dress and the way they hold themselves. And yet, the world is large and filled with people from all over the place. Surely stature, intelligence, grace and manners can’t all be bestowed on those people who had an Oxbridge education and who live in the Home Counties (i.e. the outer ring around London). If the penny still hasn’t dropped yet -you are very familiar with this accent – it’s an authoritative, level-headed, clear, polite and polished. It’s the David Attenborough intonation – also known as the BBC radio accent.

This accent is hauntingly portrayed by Colin Firth and using a piece of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in the background.

Although it seems that a good deal of gravitas is automatically given to people with Attenborough’s diction.

If that theory really held true then everyone in a C-level position would sound the same (like the BBC) and dress the same (like a preppy Ralph Lauren ad campaign). However that seems to not be the case in real life.

The video below is by Sylvia Ann Hewlitt. It’s some kind of pseudo-business crap about cultivating the right accent and the right professional clothing will portray the right gravitas and enable you to get a promotion.

What’s even more sad and disturbing is that this woman in the video is from a Welsh mining town. Born into grim poverty after the WWII, she regails us with her moments of realisation about the world and about how she needed to mould the way her voice sounded in order to be successful in the world and to be accepted by her colleagues at Cambridge University.

The class-based tyranny of accents
Sylvia Anne-Hewlitt espouses class-based discrimination, even though she comes from a Welsh mining background.

I can point to a few famous CEOs who came from humble beginnings and yet have risen to the top still retaining the same twangs to their accents. People like Alan Sugar (East End Cockney accent still prominent); and Hilary Devey, UK logistics magnate and a northern lass who still sounds like she’s from the north.

And let’s not forget Julia Gillard the erstwhile PM of Australia who came from the working class suburb of Altona in Melbourne and sounded like it as well.

Fuck all of those people who judge based on accents. There is no professional situation where this should be an issue. What are your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “The class-based tyranny of accents

    1. It didn’t really grate on me that much hehe possibly because I liked her as a person. But Abbott – I hate his voice because he’s a horrible evil man

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