Hi! I have a CTM-related question and I thought maybe you could enlighten me! English isn't my 1st language, and I can tell not all characters have the same accent (like, Welsh for Delia and Scottish(?) for Shelagh) but I was wondering if other characters also had a specific accent, either from somewhere or related to their socio-economic background. I assume Patsy and Chummy speak posh? but I can't really tell! What are the connotations associated with the way they all speak? thanks :) xxx
Oh my god, this is literally such an interesting question for you to ask me to dig my teeth into. Ahhh, I’m excited.
So yes, Delia and Shelagh have Welsh and Scottish accents respectively. Delia’s accent is specifically a Pembrokeshire one, which comes across very well because I believe Kate Lamb is from Tenby. Laura Main is from Aberdeen, and I believe she uses her own accent from what I can tell. There are however many varieties of Welsh and Scottish accents specific to different regions, and differing in thickness and intonation. Shelagh in my opinion (I’m half Scottish) has a fairly soft accent compared to say a Glaswegian one, and Delia (I spend about a month a year visiting family in Wales) has a middling one - not too Anglicized but not Swansea thick. Though its very probable that living in London has tempered both of their accents, especially when you compare Delia’s to her mother’s. It’s something you do subconsciously so that people can understand you - I know I do it.
I would say that the immediate assumption with someone who has a non-English accent in England is that they are of lower socio-economic class, particularly in regards to London. I say this because, as we have seen with Irish characters in some of the episodes, it would be inferred that they had moved to London for work, due to poor prospects wherever home may be. However, with both Shelagh and Delia, they’re slight exceptions to this rule. Shelagh is a nun, and Delia has a trained profession. I don’t doubt though that Delia was subject to pre-judgements and perhaps the odd snide comment, especially considering that nursing at the time was generally a middle-class and upper-middle-class girl’s game.
And indeed, Patsy and Chummy are very posh. A ‘standard’ English accent is referred to as RP (received pronunciation). Chummy definitely speaks in what is referred to as Upper RP, and Patsy isn’t far behind her in that. The key difference is the vowel system, though turns of phrase give it away as well. Saying things like ‘what-ho’, ‘bally’, ‘I say’ and ‘old thing’. I would say that Sister Monica Joan falls into this accent category as well.
It has an association with the upper classes, but this is a complex term because it can both mean ‘the richest and the most powerful’, but has meant in the past purely the ‘aristocracy’. However, by this point in time (as seen with Chummy’s mother, who died rather poor) the two things don’t always necessarily intersect, and if they do not it by no means someone isn’t a member of the upper classes. We don’t know if Patsy has any aristocratic ties, but we do know that her father was an extremely wealthy businessman and that she was sent to boarding school, for example.
This is very much a middle-class accent, and applies to characters like Dr Turner, Trixie, Jenny Lee, Sister Mary Cynthia, Sister Winifred, Tom and Timothy. More on the edge would be Sister Julienne (who I would place halfway between RP and Upper RP) and Barbara (who is from a very middle class background, but grew up in a rough area of Liverpool, and Charlotte Ritchie is very good at throwing in a little variant on her pronunciation sometimes that reveals this too us).
The connotations of this are very wide, because the term middle-class is very wide! Not quite so much as it is today in the UK, but it can mean anything from Doctor (as Patrick is) to pretty damn wealthy. There’s a subset of the middle-classes that is referred to as upper-middle class. In purely technical (by that I mean titled) terms, Patsy (unless its revealed she is related to aristocracy) is upper-middle class, but in terms of familial wealth and breeding, not least to mention her cultural upbringing, one could place her in the upper classes as well. So yeah, the distinction between middle and upper-middle I think is not only a wealth thing, but a cultural thing too. The distinction between upper-middle and upper is on the basis of (for some) being aristocratic, or being extremely wealthy and being raised in those circles as a result of that (ie someone like Patsy).
Ah, the cockney accent. The very reason I started watching CtM was because of its setting, as I’m a proud little cockney. This is the accent that Fred, Violet, Peter, Sister Evangelina (to a slightly lesser extent, hers isn’t ridiculously thick, but still there) and the vast majority of the guest actors on the show have. It’s specific to East London, and associated with the working classes that have made their home there since the industrial revolution. I mentioned the Estuary accent, as this is what is used to refer to the general accent of the South East of England, and it has slight cockney tones but is generally more well-spoken. I could talk about the history of the cockney accent, how to do it, and specifically the slang (I can speak cockney rhyming slang with fluency, and its hilarious for people who don’t understand it to listen to a conversation going on with it being used when I’m with my family). As well as not least to mention my issues with how it is often poorly done in CtM, haha. The connotations of the cockney accent are firmly working class, but furthermore it has a long association with deviancy, criminality and bad morals.
English Regional Accents
One doesn’t have to leave England and go to Scotland, Ireland or Wales to find accents that differ vastly from RP. A prime example of this in CtM is Phyllis Crane, who has a Leeds accent. And as I mentioned before, Barbara has hints of Liverpool (though I implore you to google a Scouse accent and confirm that they are indeed just tiny hints). Similar to non-English accents, the implication is that you are of lower social class.
If I didn’t answer your question properly, forgive me! And honestly, feel free to ask me about anything that was unclear. I feel like my explanation of class was a little messy, because its by no means clear cut.