Ignorance, such ignorance

Oh, just do one Morrisons.

This was my initial reaction to the supermarket’s mysteriously offensive recruitment ad for northern actors which specifically ruled out applicants with a Liverpool accent. Being a scouser, I bridled instantly (before quickly having a word with myself to “calm down, calm down”) at the thought of yet another brazen assault on the good people of Liverpool. Being a journalist (who writes headlines for a living), my next thought was: “Fewer reasons to shop at Morrisons”.

It soon became clear, however, that this was not a simple “demonise-all-scousers moment”. It was directed at actors. Actors who can probably pull off quite a few regional northern accents. So why the discrimination?

Posted by “a third party” on Casting Networks International website, it appealed for “proper working-class people” for a Morrisons publicity campaign. “They should all be warm and likeable,” it went on. “But not at all like the characters from Benefits Street. They should not sound or look posh. And nobody from Liverpool, please.”

The deplorable language used to stereotype different types of ‘working class’ people is pure class-based discrimination
The crass, gratuitous nature of the words jump out. Like being stopped in the street and hit with a tirade of puerile, outdated incoherence. Growing up against a backdrop of the Thatcherite “managed decline” of the city of Liverpool, I have plenty of personal experience of such nonsense. In my quest for a first job as a reporter, I ended up being interviewed for a news agency role. It went OK until the interviewer, as if struck by a paroxysm of offensiveness, blurted out: “Just one final thing … you don’t write the way you speak, do you?”

A new twist on the “what do you call a scouser in a suit?” gag.

Seriously, don’t be a twat.

It’s not that Morrisons, the agency are biased or discriminating. It’s that they recognise the rest of us are. The rest of the country doesn’t like the scouse accent. Despises it in fact. Thus it doesn’t work well in advertising stuff.

Le Fin.

34 thoughts on “Ignorance, such ignorance”

  1. God knows there are enough Liverpudlians don’t like the scouse accent, so why the hell anybody else be obliged to like it.

  2. Johnson was out on the stump in Reading, where I now live, to drum up support for a fellow Tory. As he bumbled into view, pressing the flesh with abandon, he marched towards me and held out his hand. “Sorry. I’m not shaking your hand,” I spat out. “I’m from Liverpool.”

    “Oh, right,” he splurted. “Well. Oh, yes I’ve apologised about that …”

    “Still, I’d rather not,” I replied.

    Never apologise.

  3. The anti-scouse barb is undeniably crass, but the deplorable language used to stereotype different types of “working class” people is arguably more invidious; it’s straight out of the divide-and-rule school of snide, dishonest class-based discrimination.

    Nah. It’s neither dishonest or snide.

    Most people hate dole scum. Working class people who have to get up early every morning and graft for a living hate them the most.

    Nobody wants to shop at a supermarket advertised by Vicky Pollard.

  4. Long ago in films if they wanted to do “working class” it was usually vaguely cockney. When TV came along with all the pop in the ’60’s it became the convention to use a strongly inflected type of the real Liverpool accent. Thus was born the “scouse” thing that was actually detested by many ordinary Liverpool people at the time. Born there with a many family, I do not recall any of them have this kind of sound. It was gentler, slightly lyrical and easy on the ear. We moved so I had an RP accent derived from radio etc. Adding to that I knew a lady from London born in the 1880’s and her “cockney” again differed from the old film one.

  5. Long ago in films if they wanted to do “working class” it was usually vaguely cockney. When TV came along with all the pop in the ’60’s it became the convention to use a strongly inflected type of the real Liverpool accent. Thus was born the “scouse” thing that was actually detested by many ordinary Liverpool people at the time. Born there with a many family, I do not recall any of them have this kind of sound. It was gentler, slightly lyrical and easy on the ear. We moved so I had an RP accent derived from radio etc. Adding to that I knew a lady from London born in the 1880’s and her “cockney” again differed from the old film one.

  6. Speaking as a local. The side accent is utterly shit. The lyrical accent demetrius mentions which might be demonstrated by someone like Paul McCartney is just about ok. But the harsh guttural accent from North Liverpool which only gets stronger and stronger each year as the locals seem to see having the strongest most unintelligible accent as a signifier of ‘ardness.

    And yes if something was advertised by a scouser it would put me off.

  7. Most regional accents are dying out though. We’re losing our sociolinguistic diversity, and that makes me sad.

    Take the gentle Oxfordshire accent for example. Only spoken by people of a certain age these days. The young uns speak a sort of Estuary.

  8. I sneeze in threes

    I think also it is the excessive pride every “scouser” has or so as reenforced in popular culture, also they are usually chippy socialists (Cherie Blair’s dad). Fair enough when they had a decent football team or two, but the city has been declining since the end of slavery.

    Roger McGough speaks nicely though.

    Maybe unions would get more support from middle class voters if fewer of their leaders had such dreadull accents.

  9. New word for this American – scouser. Spell checker doesn’t like them, either.

    As a Southerner, I know national advertisers don’t like a Southern accent.

    My parents weren’t Southern, being from border states. I grew up in a town where the main employer was super high tech, with people not only from around the country, but around the world.

    I say all that to say this: occasionally, people say something about my Southern accent. WTF? I didn’t know I had one; I don’t know how I got it. But I’m cool with it. I suspect many scousers don’t even know they are scousers.

  10. “I suspect many scousers don’t even know they are scousers.”

    I suspect the problem is that almost all scousers are all too aware that they are scousers. Though why they are any worse than cockneys beats me.

  11. I’ve worked with a few Scousers and one of them said, he left and moved to Gloucestershire because he just couldn’t stand the culture of the place. He said how theft is just seen as OK, if you get away with it, in a way that it just isn’t in Gloucestershire. And how people in Gloucestershire, if they lose their jobs, will go out and work hard to get another.

  12. And really, that’s all it is. I used to work in insurance. I know that L1 is the worst postcode for contents insurance. Which is basically, lots of nicking. Don’t tolerate that shit, report someone selling stolen goods to the police and maybe people will change their view of scousers.

  13. Take the gentle Oxfordshire accent for example. Only spoken by people of a certain age these days. The young uns speak a sort of Estuary.

    Yes it is sad, it happened here in Sussex some time ago and the last remnants of the old speech, which had two distinct forms, have all but disappeared now. I can’t stand the whining Estuary that has replaced it.

    As a Southerner, I know national advertisers don’t like a Southern accent.

    I find that rather surprising, the southern accent is very attractive, to my ears at least, far better than the grating nasality of the Yankee ones.

  14. Steve, I am from Oxfordshire and other than speaking BBC english, I’ve never heard of an Oxfordshire accent. Does one exist?

  15. Gamecock – As a Southerner, I know national advertisers don’t like a Southern accent

    I called the Apple store in Liverpool yesterday and even their answerphone is a nice trustworthy Scottish accented lady rather than a local accent.

  16. ‘I find that rather surprising, the southern accent is very attractive, to my ears at least, far better than the grating nasality of the Yankee ones.’

    But the Yankees have controlled the country since 1865.

    I like a Southern accent in women, but not so much in men. My favorite ‘Merican accent is Cajun – I think it is fabulous!

  17. The Stigler

    That story is not uncommon. There is a very definite subculture that insists you are not a real Liverpudlian unless the arse is hanging out of your jeans. Middle class just isn’t allowed. He didn’t have to go to Gloucestershire though, there are any number of outstanding g villages and all towns for exiles within a few minutes of Liverpool.

  18. Thornavis – I can’t stand the whining Estuary that has replaced it.

    It’s definitely not an improvement.

    Rob – I’ve never heard of an Oxfordshire accent. Does one exist?

    Absolutely. So there’s three main accents I’ve noticed in Oxon.

    * The current BBC version of RP you mention
    * Estuary, which the yoof speak, cos it’s quality, mate.
    * What I call Oxonian, which is a soft rural-sounding accent – ever so slightly ooh-arr but not nearly as broad as West Country – and now mainly spoken by older people outside Oxford itself. So if you nip into a pub in Witney or Eynsham or Chipping Norton you’ll hear it

  19. * What I call Oxonian, which is a soft rural-sounding accent – ever so slightly ooh-arr but not nearly as broad as West Country – and now mainly spoken by older people outside Oxford itself. So if you nip into a pub in Witney or Eynsham or Chipping Norton you’ll hear it

    It’s not specifically rural, rather that this accent has survived longer in rural areas. It is a survival of the form of speech which was at one time common, with variations, to the whole of the west and south of England. It was mostly rhotic, likeMercan, although this was not the case in East Anglia, Kent and eastern Sussex. If you google Old Pronounciation ( OP ) you can find videos of actors speaking Shakespeare in what is believed to be the accent of 1600 which to modern ears sounds like West Country.

    One thing that intrigues me is why the rhotic ‘R’ is also found in an isolated pocket in Lancashire, I’ve never seen any explanation of that.

  20. “One thing that intrigues me is why the rhotic ‘R’ is also found in an isolated pocket in Lancashire, I’ve never seen any explanation of that”: maybe it’s the site of one of the Dark Ages Irish colonies thought to have been set up in Lancs.

  21. A MASSIVE RECOMMENDATION

    http://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/Survey-of-English-dialects

    From the British Library – recordings of elderly folk from the 1950s, all across the land. The blurb says it is almost entirely rural, but the recordings from “Hackney, Middlesex” are well worth listening to (public transport by horse was apparently as fast as the buses). Pre-Cockney Essex sounds like Suffolk/Norfolk. Some of the West Country and Northern accents are excellent. A hundred lost worlds.

    I can spend hours on there.

  22. I moved to Cumbria from Bromsgrove in 1976. I had difficulty understanding the broader locals until I realised that some of the words were dialect I had not heard before. My sons went to the village school and became bilingual .After a while I began using the dialect words myself and then had no difficulty in understanding.I even began to pick out differences in speech used by people from different villages around.
    Now I am in New Zealand and have had to begin all over again.
    I live just outside Dunedin which has a strong Scottish heritage (bloody bagpipers) but have not yet picked up any residual scots aaccents.

  23. You can sometimes hear a trace of the old Essex accent still, among older people in rural parts. Only a trace though, on certain words.

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