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I know many of you have an interest in or are at least curious about British accents and the way in which they differ so much across the country. Because Richard Armitage was born and raised in Leicestershire there has been occasional talk on Twitter and on some blogs about whether or not he ever had a Leicester accent himself.

 

As someone who has lived in Leicestershire since the age of five I’ve wanted to write a little about this subject for some time but it may surprise you to learn that in my time here I’ve never picked up the local accent.

 

I was born in Essex as were both my parents although none of us have an Essex accent. We left when I was 18 months old and moved to Sussex until the move up north to Leicester. My parents have what can best be described as a standard English accent or RP (received pronunciation) accent. I do too except mine is littered with East Midlands-isms. It’s all in the vowels – specifically the a and the u. My a has survived without a Midlands intervention but my u has succumbed.

 

The best description that I have ever read of a Leicester accent and the dialect that goes with it was posted on the Leicester Mercury website today in an article discussing why the Leicester accent is undergoing changes:

Why Leicester accent is undergoing changes

 

The article reminded me of expressions I haven’t heard since I was at school. It also reminded me of the July fortnight – everything would close or operate on reduced opening hours for the first two weeks of July and everyone, especially those in the city, would migrate the 100 miles or so to Skegness. Skeggeh, as it’s known round here, is a seaside resort on the Lincolnshire coast. It’s not known for its great beauty but it has a sandy beach and most importantly, is the closest seaside resort to Leicester which is about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to get in this country. During those two weeks all the Skegness newsagents would stock the Leicester Mercury – our local newspaper – which prior to the fortnight would publish a list of stockists so you could keep up to date on goings on back home while enjoying the dubious weather of the British summer. I’ve never been to Skegness. My dad’s place of work didn’t shut for those two weeks and even if it had “Skeggeh” would never have been our first choice of holiday destination.

 

The accent does differ as you move around the county and there are particular nuances that are peculiar to specific villages. I wish I knew more about it and had a better ear for picking these things up but sadly I don’t.

 

There are certain words that I associate with Leicester that may or may not be peculiar to the region:

Cob

A cob is a bread roll. Different parts of the country call it different things e.g. batch, barm cake etc, but round here it’s a cob and people are particularly partial to a chip cob.

Croggie

Giving someone a croggie means giving them a lift on your bicycle – round here that means having them balance illegally on the cross-bar!

Jitty

There were a lot of these in our village – an alleyway.

Mardy

This was used all the time when I was at school. Someone was always mardy about something which means they were grumpy or moody and probably sticking their bottom lip out as far as it would go!

Oakie

An oakie is an ice cream and the van that comes round with the annoying music is the “oakie van”.

Tabs

Ears. An old-fashioned expression is “Ah’ll bat yer tabs” which means “I’ll box your ears.”

 

The best known of all Leicester expressions is “me duck” but I don’t say it and neither does anyone in my family. I don’t suppose anyone in Richard Armitage’s family uses it either as it tends to only be used by those native to the area and by that I mean, those whose families have been settled here for several generations and from what I understand, his have not.

 

I’ve been asked several times if I think Richard Armitage has any trace of a Leicester accent and I have to say no. I don’t think he has any trace at all. Occasionally his u sounds are a bit like mine but that’s where it ends. He definitely speaks in an RP accent which could be because he moved away at a young age or because he’s had any trace of a regional accent trained out of him. Either way, I’d love to know if he can do a Leicester accent although I’d be surprised to find he can, it’s very difficult as I’m about to prove.

 

Just for a laugh, I decided to have a go at reading some of the newspaper article out loud. This is the result:

 

So there you go … that’s me trying out the Leicester accent and failing miserably. The only way you’re ever going to hear a true Leicester accent is to come up here and visit.  If you need a tour guide, let me know!

 

 

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