I’ve wanted to work with clients around the world for as long as I’ve known that was possible.
Actually that’s a lie. Long before the days of Skype, Zoom and Messenger I once had a card reading that told me I’d work with people all around the world and decided that sounded bloody lovely… even if I didn’t know how it was even possible.
But within it all there’s something I always thought would hold me back.
This accent of mine that no one could understand.
And since it’s something I lot of people comment on, I thought I’d tell you the story of that accent… And maybe even teach you a little Geordie if you’re interested 😉
What is my accent
I’m from the North East of England; South Northumberland to be exact. And so my accent is somewhere between Geordie – from the area around the city of Newcastle upon Tyne – and Northumbrian – from a bit further North.
The difference between the two? Probably totally undiscernible to most people if I’m honest… particularly when you have folk out there who can’t tell whether a person is from the US or Canada, or from Australia or New Zealand, never mind what areas they’re from within those countries.
Sigh. But anyway.
I’ve been asked if I’m Scottish, Welsh, Irish – on holiday once I was even asked if I was speaking French (I wasn’t, I was just talking really fast!). But no, I’m a Geordie. This accent is born and bred in the North East of England.
The horror of a Northern accent
I know, “so what?” you’re probably thinking. “What in the hell is the big deal?” But you see for most of my life, it has been a big deal.
Here in the UK the North/ South divide has long been talked about, and never more so than when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s in what was – thanks to various political and economic things I won’t bore you with now – a pretty poor part of the world.
Having any sort of regional accent was considered working class at best, but one like mine?
Well that was often taken as a sign you were poor and, according to some people, stupid too.
For the longest time I only ever heard accents like mine on TV when football players were being interviewed (even during those tough times this part of the world produced some pretty damned good sports people!) or in the one teenage TV drama that was set up here to show the “gritty reality” of life in the North.
The drama wasn’t that realistic (are they ever?!) but I still loved it, partly for the novelty of hearing accents like mine and seeing places I recognised on the TV. And at least now when I went on holiday people recognised my accent… even if they did ask me over and over again to say the name of the TV show like some sort of weird accented comedy turn.
At least that was a welcome change from the people who turned their noses up at my accent though because it meant I was “uneducated” (yup, someone once said that to my face) or “from a poor background” (that one came from the friend of a friend trying to impress some men we’d started talking to in a bar).
Then there was the friend who told me she had to move away to raise her son outside of my town in case he “grows up to sound stupid like you”, and the many many people along the way who asked me to repeat myself, looked confused or laughed at my pronunciation of something because this accent of mine was just too difficult to understand.
Hell, I’ve even seen Geordies subtitled on TV. And when TV starts to subtitle your accent, you pretty much decide there’s no chance of a career in public speaking of working with people from outside of your part of the world right?
What I’ve come to love about my accent
Except then the world changed of course. Here in the UK the late 90s and early 00’s saw more and more people with different accents show up on TV; including stacks from my little corner of the world.
Meanwhile people were starting to realise that all of those “friendliest city in the world” studies that Newcastle upon Tyne kept winning might just be good for business…
Because if people considered Geordies to be friendly and trustworthy, then maybe they’d respond well to customer call centres based here.
Suddenly it was cool to be a Geordie, sexy even! Suddenly when I went outside of the area people wouldn’t laugh at the way I spoke but would instead grin broadly and say “I just love your accent, I could listen to you talk all day…”
I’d love to tell you my confidence in the way I spoke was totally unrelated to that growing trendiness, but let’s be honest – it definitely helps when the thing you’ve considered to be shameful suddenly becomes cool according to the rest of the world. So suddenly I started listening to my accent differently too.
I loved the fact it connected me to this beautiful part of the world I call home; loved the way I’d hear parts of the people I loved in the way that I spoke; and loved that my accent in itself told part of my story.
Yes, I’ve learned to speak more slowly than I used to (we Geordies tend to talk fast), and I’m definitely still asked to repeat things every now and again. But actually this accent of mine has never caused me any problems at all in the world of self employment… It’s even something I get complimented on over on the Divine Feminist.
Spreading the Geordie word
And that’s not all. The more people I meet in other parts of the world, the more I make it my mission to normalise this Northern accent a bit more, and to teach people bits of Geordie dialect wherever I can.
My friends in Minnesota and New York have both had Geordie dictionaries from me over the past year, and I regularly give clients little pieces of Geordie wisdom that may need a little translation but hopefully stay with them long after our sessions are over.
So in honour of that, I thought I’d share with you the top five Geordie phrases you’re most likely to hear coming out of my mouth… ready?
1. Shy bairns get nowt: My absolute favourite Geordie phrase! It basically means if you don’t ask, you’ll never get, translated as “timid children won’t get anything”.
2. Howay man: “Come on!” Bearing in mind that the word “man” in Geordie doesn’t necessarily mean an actual man… it’s kind of used in the same way Canadian people use “eh” (sorry Canadian readers!).
3. Up a height: Stressed out or anxious – when you’re spiralling in anxiety, you’re up a height!
4. Gannin’ yem: OK, I hardly ever say this since my mum (mam in Geordie) hates it. But every now and again when I’m leaving her house I don’t say I’m going home but “mam, am gannin’ yem!”
5. Alreet? I think this one’s pretty easy to get… “Alright?” Although we use it a bit more broadly – both as “how are you?” and “I’m fine.” Yup, you could actually have a conversation that goes “Alreet?” “Aye (yes), Alreet.”
Want to know how to pronounce these? I thought about being clever and recording some little sound snippets for you, but this guy is SO much better at it than I am…
If my Geordie accent isn’t enough for you, you can always check out some North Eastern celebs… there are plenty out there!
And by all means check out the videos of that TV drama I mentioned before… here’s the very Geordie theme song; or my most favourite Geordie song ever!