London accents

Timmy   Tuesday, August 12, 2003, 18:17 GMT

I've lived in London all my life (well, Harrow, to be exact, but what the hell) and I think that my accent is what they call Estuary. It's not posh or RP, but I wouldn't describe it as working-class - more like the lower end of middle class, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I've noted that there appear to be various different working class London accents - some of which I love and some of which I can't stand. A non-Londoner might think they all sound the same, but I can distinguish very definite differences between them. However, I can't put a label to these accents. I'm not sure what's South London, what's Essex, North, West London (and so on) and I'd really love to be able to do this. Can anyone help me out by naming me some famous people and telling me which part of London they hail from?
Ryan   Tuesday, August 12, 2003, 19:47 GMT
David Beckham is from Leytonstone.

Timmy   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 04:36 GMT

Thanks Ryan! I quite like Becks accent - there's something kind of cute about it (I'm a girl btw, in spite of my name. Just in case you were wondering... *grins*). Some might call it simple, but anyone can sound posh, sophisticated and intellectual with a bit of practice. Doesn't actually mean they've got any more brains though! Another footballer's (or ex-footballer's, I should say) London accent that I love is Stuart Pearce's. He was born in Shepherd's Bush but he moved to Kenton (which is near where I live) when he was fairly small. I'm not sure whether his accent is Shepherd's Bush or from round here. Some of the people near where I live sound like him but others don't so I'm kind of confused. Can anyone enlighten me?

London accents I hate - most of those on Eastenders. I'm assuming that this is the true cockney accent (although, of course, some of the actors/actresses will be putting it on). Also can't stand the chirpy London/Estuary accents of television presenters like Michael Barrymore or Jonathan Ross!
Ryan   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 05:54 GMT
Well, I was reading some and Beckham actually grew up in Chingford, which is close to Essex on the northeast side of London. Beckham has an almost Australian sound to his accent and I've heard it said that North London accents are the English accents closest to Aussie. Beckham definitely does not sound like he is from anywhere near East London, as Leytonstone is closer to the Cockney area of the city.

I don't know much about London accents myself. Supposedly all the kids are trying to speak Estuary English now, like the way you speak, which I've heard spoken before. I would guess that you could definitely tell the difference between north, south, east and west London if you tried to learn it. People move around so much nowadays that accents kind of mix together eventually.

I'm an American soccer fan, by the way, which is why I know so much about London and Beckham.

Rugger   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 10:51 GMT
Ryan, I've heard many times people comment that the Australian accent is very similar to the cockney accent. However, when I hear a cockney accent I don't know how the two can be compared, because to my Aussie ears they sound vastly different. I understand that the cockney accent may have had some influence on the development of the current Aussie accent because I do hear certain prounciation similarities. But if one takes into consideration that there were both free settlers from higher English classes who came to Australia along with the convicts (many Irish), and also the different masses of immigration to Australia since then, it is only natural that the Australian accent has veered away from the cockeny accent. David Beckham's accent is as unique and strange to my Aussie ears as I assume it is to an American, and even the thick, rural Aussie accent greatly differes from it. Most all English accents have a unique, well, "englishness" about them that sets it apart from the Aussie accent, even the Cockney accent. I've also heard a few Americans say that Jamie Oliver from the "Naked Chef" talks like an Australian, and I'm left amazed that they can't hear the unique "englishness" in his speech that is so different to the Australian accent. I recall Guofei Ma claiming that Aussies say die instead of day and so would say "todie is the die to die" instead of "today is the day to die". This is very much an exageration where most Australians do dont say "die" for day.

I guess many Americans just can't differentiate the Australian accent from certain English accents, and it's probably why so many English immigrants to the USA constantly complain about being identified first as Australians. The same is true for New Zealanders and South Africans, two accents which are vastly different to the Australian accent, but are always mistaken for it by Americans.
Simon   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 12:46 GMT
What I noticed watching Neighbours once upon a time was that many of the accents were very similar to accents in the SE of England but more suburban than cor blimey guvnor accents.

And can we stop hyping up the Irish. Ireland has a population of under 4 million. The English imposed their language upon the Irish. When you see a so called Irish surname it is usually Anglicised and not in the Irish (i.e. Gaelic) language. Irish accents in English are not just a product of being in Ireland, they are reflective of the English language as it was brought to Ireland. Irish settlers were therefore either speakers of Gaelic or Anglicised. The majority of the accent differences between Australia and the United Kingdom are down to time and distance factors.
Ryan   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 13:40 GMT
Note that I did not say that I could not distinguish between certain London accents and the Australian ones. I think it's pretty easy to tell the difference. I just said that Beckham's accent had an "Australian sound" to it. This is similar to Brits saying that the Bristol accent has an American sound because they pronounce all their Rs like many Americans do. People would never confuse someone from Birmingham or Manchester with Aussie, but they seem to do this with certain London accents for some reason.

I don't think Australian accents sound like Cockney at all, which is East London. They sound more like North London. Jamie Oliver is from Essex which is north of London as well, although I don't think he sounds Aussie at all. I do think most Americans could tell the difference between the two accents, though, if you had someone speak both of them side by side.

Rugger   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 21:18 GMT
I'm sorry Ryan if I came across as implying that you personally couldn't differentiate between the Aussie and Cockney accent. What I was trying to say was that in "general" many Americans can't tell certain English accents apart from the Aussie accent, but at the same time there are many like yourself who have been exposed to these accents and could differentiate the two. It's no big deal really, I just wanted to comment on the Cockney comparison. I guess a person has to live in Australia and be exposed to the accent for a long time before you begin to notice the exact differences from the mentioned English accents. I gues it's also no great help that people like the crocadile hunter and Paul Hogan are key Australian figures in the USA, because unlike these two, many Australians (especially those living near the cities) don't talk with a thick ("ocker") accent and use so much slang.
Ryan   Friday, August 15, 2003, 05:35 GMT
Well, I used to get confused until I started watching Australian football. The way you guys pronounced the short "a" in words like "heart" and the long "a" in words like "day" usually tip me off. But it's still confusing to most Americans who, like Canadians, talk from much further back in the throat than the rest of the English-speaking world does.

Rugger   Friday, August 15, 2003, 06:44 GMT
Ryan, do you watch AFL via Fox sports? Do you berrick for a certain team or are you just generally interested in the sport? I happen to be among the minority in Melbourne who perfers Rugby Union instead of footy, but if I had to go for a team it would be Collingwood (the "magpies"). I tried watching some gridiron on Fox sports, but I was perplexed by the continual breaks in a single game, however, it was interesting to see all the stratergising that involved. The thing I most gather from watching American football and baseball is the differences in the sporting grounds, the fans and the general atmosphere compared to Australian football/cricket events. For example, in AFL the coach sits in a private box in the stands and watches his team from above, whereas in gridiron the coach and reserves sit on the sideline. There are cheerleaders at gridiorn games, which I personally don't see the point of having. Ryan, what things have you observed as being different/strange when watching AFL?
Ryan   Friday, August 15, 2003, 14:28 GMT
I like Brisbane Lions because of their style of play and the spirit that their fans seem to show. I watched them beat Collingwood last night (tape recorded game). When I tried to find out where all the teams were from, I couldn't believe how many of them were from Victoria. In the USA, only the largest cities such as New York and Chicago have more than one team in professional sports.

My favorite professional team in American football is nicknamed the Lions too. They are the Detroit Lions and they are historically a really bad football team, but they are the football team of my home state. University football in the USA is extremely popular too. The university I attended draws 110,000 people to every single one of their football games.

Fans at AFL games seem pretty quiet and sedate to me. Do they allow alcohol at the games, because I've never seen anyone with a beer in their hands? American football fans tend to get drunk and rowdy at games, but it's nothing compared to English soccer fans who sing songs all game long. I love the spirit of soccer fans.

Rugby league has cheerleaders. I've seen them on the websites. I know there is a difference between League and Union, though. I personally find cheerleaders too distracting to the game. Tying this in to the English language, I think that the spread of the English language has also promoted the spread of sports in English-speaking countries. What do you think?

Ryan   Friday, August 15, 2003, 15:30 GMT
I mean that sports that are played in English speaking countries spread to other countries that don't speak English as their first language.

Rugger   Saturday, August 16, 2003, 00:04 GMT
The reason Victoria has most of the AFL teams is because AFL was founded in this state and has, until recent times, been only played here. Therefore, the different AFL teams represent different locations in Melbourne. For example, Collingwood is an inner East Melbourne suburb and is the home of the AFL Magpies. St. Kilda (the Saints), Hawthorn (the Hawks), Geelong (the Cats), Carlton (the Blues), ect., are all suburbs in Melbourne. There are only a few teams based outside of the sate of Victoria - eg. Brisbane Lions (formely the Lions were the Footsrcay Lions; Footscray is a Melbourne suburb) and the Adelaid Crows. States such as New South Wales and Queensland have Rugby League as their football code. When you watch TV in Melbourne the footy shows are AFL footy shows, whereas if you are in Sydney the footy shows are on Rugby League. Here in Melbourne we have the AFL grand final, whereas in Sydney there is the Rugby League grand final and "State of Origin" (traditional rivarly rugby league matches between NSW and Queensland). Rugby Union is also played in the northern states but not here in Victoria where AFL is so dominant. Cricket, however, is played in all the states (i.e. there are state teams) and thus is Australia's national sport with the national team being the Australian cricket team which plays against other international teams. Basically, Australia is a very sporty nation.
Ryan   Saturday, August 16, 2003, 04:05 GMT
Brisbane used to be Fitzroy. Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears merged to become the Brisbane Lions. Footscray is now the lowly Western Bulldogs and still play in the Melbourne area. I can tell you are a rugby fan. ;-)

In the USA we have a ton of sports too. American football is the most popular, probably. Baseball goes all summer and is basically a boring, cricket-like sport to me. We have basketball which is now getting more popular all over the world, but I'm not a big basketball fan either. I think Australia has a professional basketball league, don't they? Finally, we play ice hockey in a joint American/Canadian league.

It's a shame we have so many sports already because it means sports like Aussie football and rugby will probably never get popular here. Soccer already struggles to get popular even though the American national soccer team is one of the better teams in the world now (about equal to England).

I wonder if anybody learns English so they can understand American or Australian sports better...

Rugger   Saturday, August 16, 2003, 06:00 GMT
Thanks for the correction Ryan, although I did realise my mistake later after posting. I always get Footscray and Fitzroy mixed up for some reason, and as you've mentioned I'm not an AFL fan, so hence the blunder. I'm actually quite impressed with your AFL knowlege which is far more than any knowledge I have on either American football or baseball history. It's nice to see an American take an interrest in a sport like AFL, given that it is a relatively unknown sport on the world scale and played in such a remote and low key country as Australia.

Australia does have a basketball league for both men and women, but there isn't such a large basketball following as their is in the USA. Netball, a game played by women/girls (which people claim is the mother of basketball), is very popular here in Australia. It is played in schools, especially in the all girls schools (like mine), and is a sport taken up by most young Aussie girls and those that continue to play may represent their state or even the national team. Netball is a sport played in commonwealth countries such as New Zealand, England, etc., and part of its popularity in Australia is that Australian team has been at the top of this sport for a long time and there is also a netball rivalry between New Zealand and Australia (like in the rugby). Hockey (field hockey) is also a popular sport which is played in most schools and we have both a mens and womens national side that have been fairly succesfull (especially the womens team), winning gold at the Olympics and in other tournaments against countries like the Netherlands, Pakistan, India, England and New Zealand. However, I don't think there is a hockey league as such, but each state may have different teams that compete against each other.

Australians are sports mad people. People in this country are known to skip work to watch say the last day in a cricket (Ashes) test match against England, or for large populations of people to stay up all night to see the likes of Ian Thorpe break a world record. Speaking of the Ashes cricket test match, an American might find it bizar that one day of play in a test match is covered on one of the main TV chanels at the exclusion of other programmes until the nightly news, and that this occurs for five consecutive days until the conclusion of the match (which is sometimes is a draw). It might be even more bizar to know that many men (like my father) are often glued to the TV sets for these five days or to the commentries on radio. It's well known that during the 1930s (?) the Australian and England political relationship was shaken due to an incident that took place in a cricket match when an English bowler bowled at the body of an Australian batsman so that he couldn't make a stroke (it's known today as bodyline bowling). I suppose Australians are renowned for their sporting achievements than they are for anything else, and it's probably why sports are taken so seriously here.