Proud to be Northern: Why I don’t say ‘grass’ like ‘arse’

The flatcap chooses the Yorkshireman Image credit: Heron, Wikimedia Commons

Proud to be Northern: Why I don’t say ‘grass’ like ‘arse’ To write this, I had to nip back up from the hard graft I was doing down the pit. I’ve put on my special writing flat-cap and with my left hand I stroke my whippet – a dog not a euphemism. My bread and dripping waits on’t side and I’m wrapped in ten jumpers so I don’t have to put the heating on.

This is the character I enjoy putting forward whenever I’m asked about coming from the North. This is the caricature I put forward. I’ll tell you what, though, I believe there are plenty of reasons to be proud of being Northern. It can sometimes feel as if it’s harder to access opportunities if you’re from above Coventry, and there is likely some truth in that feeling. Without letting my course feed into my article too much (spoiler alert: linguistics), the differences in accent and dialect can influence your chances. An example of such a difference in accent could be the lack of a ‘BATHTRAP split’, that is we of the North pronounce ‘bath’ with the vowel a Southerner would place in ‘trap’. Sociolinguistic studies have shown that people with regional accents tend to do well in callcentres, but only when doing the calling not the managing. This kind of bias does exist. It’s real and it should be combatted as much as possible.

My argument is that it’s wider Britain that will have to change, not us. We have every right to be proud of whatever aspects of Northernness we display. Accents of the North are quite beautiful I reckon. Without wishing to sound divisive (and with the backing of research into the perception of dialects), accents of the North can often sound friendlier; when you pick up the phone in a steaming rage, you want to talk to someone from the North, it might calm you down. It’s easy to stray into divisive waters here, in fact. The politico in me is screaming out to write a good few paragraphs on how many Northern communities are being completely forgotten. (The ‘left-behind’ playing such a key role in the referendum wasn’t an accident…)

But in writing this article I don’t want to be divisive. I could say that the gravy down here isn’t a patch on what you could get up in Yorkshire… but I won’t. I could say that we are just right when we call a ‘roll’ a breadcake; it’s bread shaped like a cake, we’re just right… but I won’t. I could say that the prices down here are blooming terrible and how people pay them without a vein throbbing I don’t know… and actually I will say that. But the essential point here isn’t about the problem with the South. It’s fine really. There are some nice buildings here and there and your buses are generally timelier I imagine. Also from my experience Southerners aren’t nearly as unfriendly as my caricaturist mind wants to believe.

The essential bit is that the North is quite wonderful. Standing atop the hills of the Yorkshire Dales, you get a sense of why people call it ‘God’s Own Country’. The pride is so strong even Northerners fight over which bit is better - don’t even mention the word ‘Lancashire’ to me. This pride is something to be proud of and I’m proud of that pride in the pride. We exported Jessica Ennis, The Arctic Monkeys, and some of the strongest steel you can imagine (and that’s just Sheffield). The birthplace of the Bakewell tart, Yorkshire Tea, and of course Yorkshire puddings, the national appreciation day of which was just last week.

Being Northern is something I’ll always be proud of and when I ham up the caricature, it’s only out of love. No matter where I go in life I will always end up back in the North. It’s my home. And also, (keeping the division to a minimum), it’s just better.

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