Essex accents to be celebrated

  • Date

    Thu 27 Oct 22

A display of post-it notes with words about Essex accents written on them

An exhibition on Essex accents, which aims to celebrate them as well as challenge stereotypes about them, will be on display this November in Colchester.

Researchers from the University of Essex's Department of Language and Linguistics have been working on documenting, celebrating and raising awareness of Essex dialects.

Dr Amanda Cole and Dr Ella Jeffries asked people in the county to write their responses to three questions on post-it notes. The questions asked for things that people in Essex say, what the different ways of speaking in Essex are, and which celebrities have an Essex accent. 

These post-it notes have been turned into a colourful artwork called Speaking of Essex which will be on display to the public.

These post-it notes have been turned into a colourful artwork called Speaking of Essex which will be on display to the public.

“The responses were varied and insightful,” said Dr Cole. “We got many duplicates of words like ‘innit’, ‘ain’t’, and ‘alright mate’, 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’.”

Dr Jeffries added: “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.”

As well as challenging stereotypes, the artwork aims to celebrate different dialects in the county and cultivate pride and interest in the different ways of speaking in Essex.

“Essex, and its accents, face a lot of stigma,” said Dr Cole. “People from Essex may be negatively stereotyped, judged, mimicked or commented on based on their accent, which can have harmful effects.”

In her research, Dr Cole has found that based only on their accent, people from Essex tend to be judged as less intelligent and trustworthy than people from other parts of the south-east. In research led by Dr Jeffries, they have also been looking at how and at what age young children develop these negative ideas about Essex.

“Essex is a rich tapestry of accents,” adds Dr Cole, “our research and artwork celebrates this diversity. We are challenging the common idea that the Essex dialect is less correct, interesting or expressive than other dialects.”

The Speaking of Essex artwork will be available to view at the One Colchester Community Hub throughout November. It will start with a launch event on Saturday 5th November from 10am until midday, where people will be invited to learn about Essex dialects, contribute their thoughts and reflect on their own way of speaking.