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4:48pm on Tuesday, 12th May, 2009:

Steve Bell is a Southerner


Here's the final panel of today's If... cartoon by Steve Bell in The Guardian:

The female character is meant to be Hazel Blears, MP for Salford, who recently managed to annoy Gordon Brown by comments she made in an Observer article, and then managed to annoy the rest of us by changing the designation of her second residence three times in a year depending on which loophole she wished to exploit.

Anyway, the point is that the right honourable member for Salford is from the North. Like me, she has a Northern accent. Like me, she makes no distinction between the vowel sounds in the words "good luck".

Now newspapers fairly regularly like to render Northern accents in some kind of pseudo-phonetic way (typically in the phrase "fook off"). Cartoonist Steve Bell has done the same thing here. The u sound has been replaced by oo, which is meant to show it's the same sound as Southerners use in "good". The thing is, though, that to Northern eyes that out-of-place oo doesn't look like it should sound like the oo in "good" at all — it looks like it should sound like the oo in "school" or "food". Indeed, in some parts of the North, these are about the only words with the oo pronounced this way. Words such as "look" and "book" will have the same sound for oo as if they didn't have the final k on the end.

Thus, when I see "broother", it looks as if it should be said brewther.

Why it is that newspapers seem to like to mock Northern speech but have no Viz-like "fack orf" when they're talking about Southern yobs I don't know, but ... actually, I do know: it's because they can't conceive that Northerners can actually read, let alone that they might read their newspaper.

The Guardian used to be The Manchester Guardian. Its registered office is still in Manchester. Some difference that's made...

Referenced by A Suit in Belgrave Square.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).