The Brutal Bashing of the Brummie Accent

Sophie Bond -  Writer

People have personal preferences about almost everything, whether it be a favourite colour or a favourite flavour ice cream; it is down to what the individual prefers. This is no different when it comes to accents - some people cannot stand a Welsh, Geordie, Scouse, Irish accent, but other people love them. I’m sure you have heard someone say something along the lines of ‘she’s lovely, but I just cannot stand her accent’, I’ve heard this about Cheryl Cole and her thick Geordie accent. 

The accent which tends to take most of the hate and hostility seems to be the Birmingham accent, for some reason, hardly anyone has a liking towards it. This accent is shown through the series Peaky Blinders. In case you are not familiar with this T.V series, it is set in Birmingham so the majority of the characters have the accent, but as stated by Lauren O’Neill not all of the accents are spot-on; she says some accents are more representative of the Liverpudlian accent. However, despite how cool and confident the peaky blinders are, it seems that their characteristics are not reflected through people’s opinions of the accent they speak with. Numerous studies have found that Birmingham is rated the ‘least cool’ or ‘most guilty accent’, basically every non-desirable quality that can be thought of, the Birmingham accent has.

John Dixon et al (2002) completed a study using the matched guise technique. This is comprised of participants listening to recordings made by one speaker demonstrating different accents. In this case, the Birmingham accent and the British ‘standard’ was used (whatever that standard is, critically speaking it is hard to determine a standard for a language that is constantly changing). Bex Tony and Richard Watts (1999) give a good summarisation that Standard English is a ‘process driven by spokespeople who have successfully articulated a particular set of social values’. In other words, Standard English is a term which fits the form of language that some people think is the most prestigious. Anyway, they asked participants to rate how guilty the speaker in the recording sounded on a 7 point scale, ranging from innocent to guilty. The crimes accused of were either armed robbery (blue-collar) or check fraud (white collar), with the blue-collar crime obviously being more severe. They found that the Brummie accent was rated as significantly more guilty than the Received Pronunciation (RP - Standard) accent. This rating was made not knowing who the speaker was, the judgement was purely made on the accent they heard. This is a prime example of pre-judgement, or in the words of the infamous cliche: judging a book by its cover (or in this case accent).

Not only are there academic sources with evidence of this bias, but there are also many news articles with strong opinions of the Brummie accent. One of which includes Hannah Furness’ (2015) article which is titled ‘Brummie accents worse than staying silent, study shows’. She uses a study from the University of South Wales and it was Professor Lance Workman who revealed the results that those who were silent were rated cleverer than those who spoke with a Brummie accent. They used random accents and faces and used a recording of a woman speaking in three accents - Yorkshire, RP, Birmingham and they also had a silent condition. They found that people ranked the Yorkshire accent as most intelligent, then RP and then Birmingham. This is yet another negative perception of the Brummie accent, suggesting it isn’t very popular with those who don’t speak it because of the link people make between the accent and the supposed intrinsic lack of intelligence of those who speak it. I’m not sure I entirely agree with these results though, considering no matter what accent a person has they are still communicating; communicating becomes very hard when you remove the verbal aspect.

It is always interesting to listen to other people’s opinions on what they do and don’t like, whether it be food, clothing or even accents. Just because there are studies that suggest the Birmingham accent rank fairly low on most desirable qualities, doesn’t mean it is any less of a form of communication. Alison Smith (2017) completed a study where she looked at the ratings of British accents from both American and British participants and compared the results following from Howard Giles' (1970) matched guise study. She found that Americans rated British accents significantly higher than the British participants did for all personality traits asked in the questionnaire. This included friendliness and intelligence. She also found from this that it partially supported her hypothesis that there is actually no significant difference between the Birmingham accent, and those who speak it, and those who speak the stereotypical positive accents: RP, Edinburgh and Cardiff. This implies that the judgement of the Brummie accent is completely based on our society and what we deem as the norm. So you can decide for yourself, does the Birmingham accent deserve the stick it gets or do you view it as inferior just because society tells you to?


Dixon, J. Mahoney, B. and Cocks, R. (2002). Accents of Guilt?: Effects of Regional Accent, Race, and Crime Type on Attributions of Guilt. Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 21(2). Pp 162-168. DOI: 10.1177/02627X02021002004

Furness, H. (2015). Brummie accents ‘worse than staying silent’, study shows. The Telegraph. 16th July. Available at: [accessed 18/08/19]

O’Neill, L. (2019). Nothing Ruins a Good TV Show Like a Bad Accent. Vice. 14th August. Available at: [accessed: 16/08/2019]

Smith, A. (2017). U wot m8?: American and British Attitudes toward Regional British Accents. PhD Thesis. Claremont University

Tony, B. and Watts, J. (1999). Introduction. In: Tony, B. and Watts, R. Standard English: The Widening Debate. London: Routledge. Pp 1-10

Photo credit - Luke Matthews -


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