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Scouse accent is 'UK's most untrustworthy and unintelligent'

There is a good case for ignoring PR polls like these. On the other hand, is it time to challenge character assassinations on our city?

Written by . Published on July 17th 2014.

Scouse accent is 'UK's most untrustworthy and unintelligent'

HAVE you heard the one about the Scouser who walks into a pub in the City of London. The barman looks at him and says: “Calm down, calm down,” and everybody in the boozer falls about in uncontrollable laughter. 

"It's only bit of harmless pub banter innit? CALM DOWN!" Ooh, watch them hubcaps, while you're at it, etc. But not for the bloke from Brum who pipes up: “Why are you taking the piss out of the way I talk?” - and the Scouser who bites his lip and refrains from muttering something about insult to injury. 

As Peter McGovern penned in his famous ballad: we speak with an accent exceedingly rare. But do Liverpudlians have the most untrustworthy accent in the United Kingdom? 

Perhaps the unfair character assassination of the people of Liverpool should be a crime, in the same way other sections of society are now protected by law from demonisation and attack

A new poll looking at people’s perceptions of various different UK accents shows the “scouse” accent is the most popular for mimicking for comedic effect. 

As if that isn’t bad enough, the pollsters add that it is trusted by just one percent of the 2,000 people surveyed, making it the most dodgy in the country, along with that of Norfolk.

Might as throw in another finding: we also come bottom in the chart for the most intelligent sounding accent. “Queen’s English” (whatever that is) topped the poll with 64 percent. 

Comfortingly, we are only third from the bottom when it comes to the hardest to understand accents, ahead of Geordie and Scottish brogues. 

Stereotype Close - BrooksideBirth of the stereotype: Brookside Close

The poll has been commissioned as a way of generating publicity for a new adult “guess-the-accent” party game invented by Heswall-born Dr Graeme Fraser-Bell. 

Steering well away from the “untrustworthy” line, he said: “The association of Scouse with some of the UK's finest comedians over many decades has clearly resonated with the population as a whole. There are also a couple of well-known, easy-to-mimic perceived phrases that can be called on for instant comedy effect by many, which could also explain why Scouse has come out on top as the go-to accent for comedic value. 

“The game is all about people doing bad impressions of good accents. Few party games are capable of reducing people to tears of laughter within seconds of opening the box.” 

It’s a fine line, deciding whether to ignore these silly but divisive polls, or challenge them. We’re famed around these parts for our self deprecation and humour, but link an accent with the words “untrustworthy” and “unintelligent” - let’s be honest they are saying we are cheats, liars, fraudsters and thick - and it ceases to be funny. 

I_Scousers_ReactFrom a blog called BoreMe

Every city has its scallies, and the vast majority of people in Liverpool speak with lovely accents, influenced by a fusion of Welsh, Irish and Lancashire dialects. Yet, even some of our most prominent people in the national spotlight can overdo it: the Huyton twang of England Captain Steven Gerrard, for example, or the trowel with which the ever popular John Bishop lays it on thick in his TV and radio appearances. 

If we are talking about perception, then, it might have been cheaper and better to have shelled out for enforced lessons in pronunciation, for the likes of Cilla, Tarby and Bishop, rather than spend millions of pounds on business festivals. 

You could even heap some of the blame on Liverpool's newly crowned creative industries tsar, Phil Redmond, for convincing the nation we are no more than a gaggle of Barry Grants and Terry Sullivans. 

In the same way that a daily diet of banner headlines in our local newspaper gives the impression that Liverpool is the British outpost of The Wire, unchallenged claims that the city is populated by dodgy thickos is not exactly sending out the correct messages to inward investors. 

Why on Earth would they want to bring their businesses to a place where they will employ people who will rob them blind and they won't understand a word they say anyway? 

There Is Even An AppThere is an app

That’s the Liverpool in the minds of pollsters and quote-me-quick PR people, which filters down to the Old Bull and Bush. In the real world we know different, but if you say something enough it becomes "the truth". 

Perhaps the unfair character assassination of the people of Liverpool should be a crime, in the same way other sections of society are now protected by law from demonisation and attack. Or is that suggestion merely reverting to stereotype? After all, everyone knows how much we like a good whinge.

Maybe, in the way we grant the freedom of the city to people who have championed Liverpool, we should have an antidote: tell certain people who do us no favours to sling their hook.

But let us not forget those bent and brainless bankers who brought this nation - and this city to its knees. They weren't talking in any nasal scouse twang: they looked down their noses and fleeced us in perfect Queen’s English.

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29 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Lord StreetJuly 17th 2014.

" But let us not forget those bent and brainless bankers who brought this nation - and this city to its knees. They weren't talking in any nasal scouse twang: they looked down their noses and fleeced us in perfect, clipped Queen’s English." No they didn't, they are all estuarine riff-raff these days, like stockbrokers and the BBC! They speak like Kelvin Mackenzie and Roland Rat. These polls are laughable. The last one I read about said that the estuarine-London accent was nationally viewed as the least trustworthy, which was far ore believeable. Surveys are very easily rigged to produce the desired results.

John BradleyJuly 17th 2014.

Of course there is this. www.theguardian.com/…/davidward…

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

That piece is 14 years old John

Lodge LaneJuly 18th 2014.

So it is, but it is more remarkable in that it was still in the dark old days when the London media was routinely writing-off Liverpool as a 'basket case' city full of low-achievers with 'chips on their shoulders' before the tide stared turning. One might expect an even more positive report since about 2005.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2014.

problem is were all so relaxed and laid back we laugh it off most of the time instead of telling others to do one.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Laura NorderJuly 18th 2014.

Is that a problem? The readiness of some Liverpudlians to complain emotionally about how hard-done-to we are to the sniggering media merely provokes charges of us being “whingeing scousers”. If defamation has really taken place then a solicitor’s letter is far more dignified, more likely to get an apology and more likely make the defamer think twice before opening their bigoted gob again.

Ramsey CampbellJuly 18th 2014.

Surely the solution to issues like this is a law that requires all comments about any group to be approved by members of that group. Or if that seems a shade extreme, perhaps we could have a national Adopt An Accent Day to help people understand how having a particular accent would affect their lives. Or possibly days devoted to appreciating places in Britain - Loving Liverpool Day, Beloved Birmingham Day and so forth?

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

Liverpool also faces an internal struggle on this with some locals who refuse to believe this discrimination even exists. The discrimination does exist and should be challenged. One of the most effective ways of doing this would be to do as the Cornish have done and file to be formally and internationally recognised as a distinct group and culture. This provides the legals necessary to do more than just throw words back (which are only used by our detractors to insult Liverpool even more). Getting the discrimination deniers to get their heads out of the sand and go along with applying for this would be a massive challenge, but I think could be well worth it.

Ramsey CampbellJuly 18th 2014.

I have to confess I've never encountered it myself, although pretty near everyone I've met from elsewhere can hear I'm from Liverpool.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

Then you've never read a newspaper? Never read the articles that get written about us? Never read the (predictable) disturbing comments underneath? Come off it, the discrimination is everywhere, and its effects are everywhere too. Our city is doing better recently in terms of development, but you only have to cast your mind back just over a decade to see the struggle against perception and its disastrous effects, after decades of seriously bad (and often undeserved) PR, and subsequently being the butt of jokes about unemployment and crime (and a lot worse). So, no one has had the guts to say anything to your face, I am glad that at least you've been spared that. But no one in Liverpool can say they've never encountered discrimination, because it has been imposed on all of us and it affects all of us, even those who don't speak with strong accents.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Tricky WooJuly 18th 2014.

Absolutely right. There are a great many discrimination deniers and they do not do this city any favours at all. This is an uncomfortable subject for them, perhaps, but it is a very real issue. I have worked across the UK with people who are genuinely terrified to set foot in the city. This has included the editor of a magazine in New York City and her husband, a Royal Marine, ffs, who had served in Iraq. Nevertheless, once most people are persuaded to buy a ticket to Lime Street, everything changes. They (sweeping generalisation I know) tend to fall in love with the place, in my experience. (In the end the NYC woman and her brave hubby couldn't be persuaded, but it was no great loss).

Sefton ParkerJuly 18th 2014.

But that happens in Liverpool. I was blocked from entering Reece's Lyceum Cafe in Bold Place by a waitress who directed my friend and I to a branch of Sayers up Bold Street. We were upset and offended by this but with hindsight I realised that as we were both wearing 'double denim' we desered this treatment. It wasn't because of our accents at all.

Ramsey CampbellJuly 18th 2014.

Sorry - I meant I'd never encountered it in person, and I honestly don't think I've overlooked it. I'm a great deal more likely to meet some kind of stereotypical assumption about my work, not where I come from. I'm just talking about my own experience, you understand.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

With all due respect, Ramsey, one would imagine that you move in rather more polite circles....

Lodge LaneJuly 18th 2014.

Of course the eternal problem is that when Sky News or the Daily Mail sends a reporter to Liverpool, the sight of a camera or microphone attracts the immediate interest of unintelligible track-suited scallies who gather round and gormlessly bend over backwards to fulfil the negative stereotype, stupidly thinking that they are being terribly amusing. They make it so easy for Liverpool’s critics. What I don’t understand is how negative media stereotypes of Londoners: their appalling English, their fiddling, cheating, agressive, criminal and generally nasty ways are quite widespread but these people are seen as loveable rogues. The mainstream media even sentimentally praises the murdering, torturing Krays as good lads really who loved their mother!

Liverpool wagJuly 18th 2014.

I had the delightful experience in Cornwall last year of encountering a group of young people, outside a pub, in conversation about scousers. Actually, I was alerted to this discourse by one of my children who came up and asked me: 'Why are those people saying everyone from Liverpool is a thief." If there are any sweeping generalisations to be made, be assured, it wasn't people from Liverpool who started it.

1 Response: Reply To This...
KernowJuly 18th 2014.

They were probably Londoners staying at their parents' holiday homes.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

About 20 years ago I had the good fortune to be dating a chap living in London who was a bit of a catch, shall we say. I remember some of his girl friends coming to Liverpool with him for the weekend, among other reasons, to meet me. I do not consider my accent to be particularly strong, so I was quite surprised to hear one of these young women mimicking me in the loos of the pub we were in. It was a very poor impression of a scouse accent, more like Birmingham, but I was deeply stung and hurt. Eventually, the relationship with the tall, dark suitor ended. Guess what, he ended up marrying this charming lady from London who his family thought was "more his type" he said. Although I was devastated at the time, the only thing I could remember about her, apart from her name, was that horrible incident 20 years ago. So I looked her up on Facebook last week and these days she looks like the back of a bus and so do their kids. Every cloud and all that.

Beverley MoloneyJuly 18th 2014.

I am a pretty well travelled scouser, currently living in the USA, I have always been 'pulled' on my accent and it is not even that strong. But for me we are unique and well world renowned, maybe not always for the best things, what the **** FOOTBALL, THE BEATLES THE BEST!!!! When I lived in the London area many years ago I did get 'bored' by their mostly rude comments about theif'n Liverpool people!!! Ignorant gits!!! I love Liverpool and will always be proud of my roots, and I visit whenever I can.

John BradleyJuly 18th 2014.

I don't have an accent. It was quiet interesting to have an interview with the external games manager at Sony Liverpool who spent the first five minutes asking why I want to work with thieving scousers before looking at my CV.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Balfour InstituteJuly 18th 2014.

Being born and bred here I do have a Liverpool accent, but because I do not affect to speak like a scally stroke victim with terminal catarrh who thinks it is cool to use silly American slang they hear on their Sky telly, people often ask me how I came to be in Liverpool.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2014.

Quiet? Guess you didn't get the gig then

2 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyJuly 18th 2014.

What was even more galling is I'd said no to the offer of an in house job in order to see this out house resident.

John BradleyJuly 18th 2014.

43rd biggest life mistake.

SaladDazeJuly 18th 2014.

Mind you, there's Hector McVey.

Jeff HoyleJuly 22nd 2014.

'As if that isn’t bad enough, the pollsters add that it is trusted by just one percent of the 2,000 people surveyed, making it the most dodgy in the country, along with that of Norfolk.' Norfolk? Nobody knows what it sounds like. Hear it in a film, TV or a play (Check out Christopher Hunter currently on at Southwark playing Tom Paine) and they all sound like they come from somewhere just outside Bristol. Jeff (Norfolk)

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyJuly 22nd 2014.

The can't use a proper Norfolk accent as it would make the play 8 times longer.

AnonymousJuly 22nd 2014.

Don't forget Norfolk's contribution to the global music scene either, The Singing Postman and 'ave ee got a loyt boy

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyJuly 22nd 2014.

This www.youtube.com/watch…

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