These were the three questions that we asked members of the public at our event ‘Dialect and identity in Essex’ in Firstsite art gallery this summer.
People wrote their responses to these questions on colourful post-it notes. The responses were varied and insightful.
We got many duplicates of “innit”, “ain’t”, “alright mate?”, “shut up!” and “dropping T” as well as the names of celebrities from The Only Way is Essex.
But we also got less predictable examples of things that people say in Essex such as “fink instead of think”, “seen rhyming with bin”, “calling someone a melt”, “sorted”, “that’s calm”, “peng”, “yous” and “shew instead of shown (North Essex)”.
Celebrities with Essex accents were a mixed bunch including Priti Patel, Constable, Richard Osman, Sarah Pascoe.
Many people commented on how the Essex accent changes from North to South where it sounds ‘more London’. Others spoke about differences between rural and urban areas or between young and old people.
“Init”, “yous”, “that’s calm”, “peng” were mostly attributed to young people.
We have turned these colourful snippets into a piece of art titled Speaking of Essex. This artwork challenges stereotypes, celebrates Essex dialects and cultivates pride and interest in the many ways of speaking in Essex.
Essex – and its accents – face a lot of stigma. Research has found that when reading aloud the same sentence, people from Essex are judged on average 11% less intelligent than someone from southwest London.
People from Essex may be negatively stereotyped, judged, mimicked or commented on based on their accent. This is a form of accentism which can have harmful effects on individuals and society.
But the way we speak is a part of who we are. The dialects of Essex are no less grammatical, expressive or articulate than any other dialect of English. For instance, saying “wa’er” (using what is called a glottal-stop in linguistics) instead of water is not wrong – it’s just a part of our accent!
Essex is a rich tapestry of dialects. There are many and varied ways of speaking depending on which area of Essex people are from, whether they are in a rural or urban location, as well as things like age, gender, ethnicity and social class.
Speaking of Essex celebrates the diversity of Essex dialects!
Throughout November, Speaking of Essex will be displayed at One Colchester Community Hub at 4-6 Long Wyre Street in Colchester city centre.
Come along to the launch event on Saturday 5th November from 10am until midday. Admire Speaking of Essex, write your own thoughts about Essex dialects on post-it notes, reflect on your own way of speaking and learn about the different ways of speaking in Essex!
Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Institute for Analytics and Data Science), Department of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex