- Americans hold on to a lot of stereotypes about British people.
- Not all British people sound like the Queen when they talk.
- People who live in Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester are generally considered to have the worst accent in the UK.
There are plenty of American stereotypes of what it’s like to be British.
But some of them are so, so wrong.
From thinking we know the Queen – most of us don’t – to the mistaken belief that all British people have terrible teeth (according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 28% of adults in England have tooth decay, compared with 92% of Americans), there are a lot of misconceptions about British people.
And as a Brit living in the States, I’ve pretty much heard them all.
But the one thing I’ve found that Americans always get wrong?
Thinking every British accent is the same. Fortunately for me, it’s a misconception that’s worked in my favor since moving to the US.
It’s no secret that Americans love a British accent.
I would hazard a guess that someone tells me they love my accent at least twice a week. To many Americans, the British accent sounds smart, intelligent, and trustworthy.
But many Anglophiles don’t seem to realize the huge variety in British accents. We don’t all sound like Queen Elizabeth. She speaks in Received Pronunciation (RP) – otherwise known as the Queen’s English – and it’s an accent that’s spoken by just 2% of the British population.
Unlike most accents, RP isn’t regional. You won’t be able to figure out where someone with an RP accent grew up, but you’ll know instantly that they’re of a high social standing.
The linguistic variation across the UK is unusual. According to YouGov, there are roughly as many English dialects in the British Isles as there are in the whole of North America – including Canada, Bermuda, and Native American dialects.
Each different dialect carries with it a certain stereotype and expectation of class and education.
I’m from Birmingham and I speak with a “Brummie” accent. Ozzy Osbourne has a “Brummie” accent, although his is thicker than mine. And unfortunately for me, my accent is generally considered the least attractive accent across all of the UK.
And even though I’m proud of where I come from, there’s nothing quite as disheartening as finding out that studies have suggested that those with Birmingham accents are viewed as less intelligent than those who stayed silent.
According to YouGov, the most attractive accent is Northern Irish, followed by RP, with the Welsh accent coming in third. On the other end of scale, Birmingham came last, with the “Scouse” or Liverpool accent ranked second-to-last, and the “Mancunian” Manchester accent third-worst.
But you’d never know there was even such a thing as a “bad” British accent in America.
In the States, my accent is a novelty that sets me apart in a positive way. Since moving here, I’ve been asked by employers to record voice-overs for internal corporate videos, present at events, and provide an insight into the British English language.
You guys think I sound like Emma Watson. And even though that couldn’t be further from the truth, I’ll take it.