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Huw Edwards shows ‘regional’ accent no longer holds you back says former Times editor

25 Sep 2021 2 minutes Read
Huw Edwards. Picture by the BBC.

Huw Edwards shows that having a ‘regional’ accent is no longer a barrier to success, according to a former Times editor.

In an article for the Guardian, Simon Jenkins argues that regional accents were now welcome – but that ‘correct’ English should still be drummed into children across the UK.

He argues that the south-east centric emphasis on an RP accent had now given way to an acceptance that different people spoke in different ways, with even the “Queen’s accent noticeably different from the way she spoke in the strangulated voice of 40 years ago”.

“In the last century the BBC used to ban regional accents on air and there was a justified outcry. It no longer does,” Simon Jenkins said.

“While a Graham Norton or a Huw Edwards voice is not that of a Stephen Fry, I cannot believe it is held against them, any more than are the voices of Paul McCartney or Geoffrey Boycott.

“Most people can manipulate their accents as they choose. But I think most Britons delight to hear regional accents.”

However, he said that children across the UK should be taught that standard English was “correct” and was against suggesting otherwise “just to protect supposed regional sensitivities”.

“In the 19th century much debate in Wales and Ireland centred around whether the new school system should teach in the medium of English or in then prevalent local tongues,” he said.

“Nationalist intellectuals demanded that English be banned. To radicals such as Daniel O’Connell, this was antiquarian arrogance, denying poor Irish the skills by which their children might escape poverty. It was ‘national suicide’.

“In Wales, Aneurin Bevan said the same of Welsh. English was the language of working-class unity and to deny it to Welsh children was debilitating.”

While “no one wants to see the demise of English dialects” he said that “grammar is different”.

“As long as English is the nation’s language – as well as much of the world’s – its communality, its grammatical accuracy is in everyone’s interest,” he said.

“Accent we can leave to the diversity of the human marketplace. But the gods of grammar we should surely respect.”

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Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
28 days ago

Annwyl Simon, “While a Graham Norton or a Huw Edwards voice is not that of a Stephen Fry, I cannot believe it is held against them … _________________ What kind of weird logic is this? Jenkins is already setting up the benchmark that Fry’s accent is supposed to be the benchmark of Norton, Edwards and the rest of us poor plebs in the Celtic fringes. (Don’t forget he referred to the Celts’ nationalisms as ‘a form of virus’ in a previous article.) Of course Norton doesn’t speak like Edwards who doesn’t speak like Fry who doesn’t speak like Norton. So… Read more »

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
28 days ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Dialects are not accents. ‘Standard English’ is a dialect, and RP is an accent. I guess the confusion comes from the fact that speakers with RP accents mostly speak the ‘standard English’ dialect — Stephen Fry being the go-to example. But most speakers with non-RP accents are accustomed to reading & writing the ‘standard English’ dialect, and can speak it (in their own accents) when they want to. Huw Edwards reads the news in the ‘standard English’ dialect with a non-RP accent.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
27 days ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

I wonder what he makes of American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African accents and spellings. Do we even dare to mention Caribbean accents in his presence? He’d do his nut.

Richard
Richard
28 days ago

Simon Jenkins is one of the ‘national’ Treasurers of these islands. An original thinker and eloquent advocate for radical causes & ideas including empowering communities and self determination for the ‘home ‘ nations. Like many however of Welsh extraction brought up and living in Metropolitan England; his adopted background reflects quite naturally the ethos of those who have ‘done well ‘ and succeeded in their chosen profession there. His view of the ‘ land of his fathers ‘ though positive and even paternal however naturally does not appreciate the rapidly changing face of Wales in 2021…a long way from the… Read more »

Mathew Rees
Mathew Rees
27 days ago

Sorry but I don’t buy this at all.

It’s long been acceptable to have Irish/Scottish/Welsh accents on UK-wide TV but you simply won’t get strong regional English accents on mainstream TV news. They’re usually relegated to sports departments.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
27 days ago
Reply to  Mathew Rees

True enough, Huw Edwards has been reading the news for quite some time so there is nothing new about this.

Sian
Sian
27 days ago

Rather depressing article and comments as all the examples given are all white males, 7 in the Nation article alone. there’s clearly an assumption that all important presenters are male & white.

Mathew Rees
Mathew Rees
27 days ago
Reply to  Sian

Erm… you won’t find one straight white English male presenting any BBC flagship news programme.

Do you have something against white people? Or men? Or heterosexuals? Keep your prejudices to yourself.

Gill
Gill
27 days ago
Reply to  Sian

TV and radio presenter now cover every demographic possible. However whennit comes to BBC radio southern, middle class English is predominant. Hardly any regional bar Adrian Chiles or Chris Mason. Shocking really, no Brummies , Geordies, west country and hardly any Welsh. Like a previous commentor said .

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