No to “Ey up me duck” laziness

So Angelina Jolie can ‘speak’ Derbyshire (Derby-born actor Jack O’Donnell gets a Hollywood film award). Well done. I’m not impressed. I bet he’s prouder of having mastered the English language than staying ‘trapped‘ in a geographically definable accent.
I’m not against accents per se, but if they become a treacly mesh of mangled and missing vowels and consonants then what’s the point? Language is used to communicate and if it doesn’t achieve that basic task then it’s failing.
There is little better than a flowing, lilting, almost song-like dialect that takes the listener into another world – just like one of the great authors – but if the message is not communicated then it may as well be a Neanderthal grunt with a corresponding dribble.
Two examples:
1. Sheffield lad Sean Bean, a South Yorkshire tongue that adds gravitas, strength and conviction. Could you imagine Kenneth Williams as Sharp?! And Dame Maggie Smith, an Essex girl who enunciated the most beguiling, wonderful Edinburgh burr in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
2. Any of the cast of TOWIE (sorry, I’ve only watched it for ten minutes and had to turn off).
There is a difference between ‘dialect’ and ‘accent’. Dialect seems to be something gradually handed down over the centuries and generations where some words have totally different meanings, but the expression gets the message across (viz Lindisfarne and Fog on the Tyne). Accent is, at its worst, a way of getting words out with as few recognisable syllables as possible – hence missing ‘g’, ‘h’ and ‘t’ sounds in perfectly acceptable, descriptive words.
So why do authors rarely meander into dialogue that is rich in accents? Clearly there are several answers: 1. They speak properly themselves; 2. They know how to write; 3. They have some respect for readers, some of whom may not have English as their first language; 4. It sounds stilted and looks out of place on the printed page (or Kindle); and many more.
I am reading books by some exceptional East Midlands authors (Stephen Booth, Steven Dunne, Rod Duncan, John Martin, Mark Wright and others) and nowhere do they lapse into ‘ey up me duck’ land. Even MP Wright (Heartman) manages to capture the West Indian lilt of his hero in Bristol without forcing the reader to grab a dictionary. I humbly suggest that actors and directors must take a long hard look at scripts and make sure that they are communicating effectively.
Saying that, Angelina Jolie don’t half scrub well, don’tcha think?

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