Millenium Bridge in NewcastleLindsey Armstrong

A Geordie is a very rare creature in Cambridge. When meeting new people, I’ve been mistaken as Scottish, Irish, and even Welsh. I have encountered a small amount of snobbery about Newcastle, my city of origin, and have had to explain to many people that it is not just a town full of Geordie Shore radgies. In spite of these cultural stereotypes, I’m not ashamed of my accent and would never try to mask it.

I do feel awkward and self-conscious in these situations, and when I speak during class, I become hyper-aware of my use of pronouns. Not many people are aware of this, but we Geordies say ‘wuh’ for ‘we’ or ‘us’, and ‘iz’ for ‘I’, which is commonly mistaken for ‘us’. For example, ‘she was looking at wuh’ = ‘she was looking at us’. This does make me feel as though I sound less educated than my friends, but of course, I would never use these words in an essay; it is only in speech that these Geordie alternatives slip out. However, I do feel conscious of it in educational settings, such as supervisions or seminars, when every other English student has an RP accent. In a practical criticism class in second year, we were analysing a poem as a group when I realised just how much my accent made a difference. The supervisor asked someone to point out the rhyme pattern, and they listed ‘door’, ‘core’, and ‘moor’. With a jolt of surprise, I realised that I hadn’t spotted ‘moor’, because for me, those words do not rhyme. I pronounce ‘moor’ with a long vowel sound, as I do for ‘book’ and ‘tour’. Silly as this is, it did make me feel alienated, and if I read the poem aloud, I couldn’t make it rhyme without adopting an accent that is not my own. Later in the same session, the supervisor asked us about the scansion of the poem. I struggled to make the final line fit the scheme, and it was only when another student read it out that I realised that for me, the word ‘fire’ has two syllables, and for everyone else in the room, it had one. It was strange to be the only one out of eleven people that experienced the poem differently, and since then similar issues have cropped up often.

“It was strange to be the only one out of eleven people that experienced the poem differently”

I’ve also had some very positive experiences thanks to my accent. In Sainsbury’s, a man overheard me discussing the dilemma of Hula Hoops vs. Cheddars with a friend, and he immediately turned and said “Oh! You’re from Newcastle!” He was very excited to meet a Geordie in the crisps aisle, as he had gone to Newcastle University and thoroughly enjoyed his time there. He told me that it was his favourite city and that he believed Geordies are the friendliest people. We continued to chat for about 20 minutes, as I was very happy to meet someone who knew the joys of my homeland and appreciated how wonderful it is. My friends say that they love my accent, and have even taken to some Geordie words and phrases that I use frequently, such as ‘radgies’, ‘haway man’, and ‘yous’ – which is actually very useful! There are so many situations where a plural third person pronoun is needed...

I’ll impart one piece of advice: if you ever encounter a Geordie (probably in the crisps aisle), you will find it very entertaining to hear us say words like ‘cookbook’, and that’s fine…as long as you don’t ask us to say it again… and again… and again

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