There have been a couple of accent- and dialect-related stories in the news this week. One concerned a schoolteacher in Berkshire, in the south of England, for whom an Ofsted 'professional management target' was set down officially in the school inspection report advising her to lose her northern accent and sound more 'southern' (see here), and another concerned a story about a school in the West Midlands banning children from using the local dialect (see here).
BBC Radio's PM programme this evening asked Professor David Crystal for his comments on accents (listen again here for another week - scroll through to 50:00). "Britain is a garden of linguistic flowers", said Professor Crystal, although he conceded that there is a pecking order to accents, with Scottish and Yorkshire accents approved of, and the West Midlands accent generally being disliked. The negative attitude to the Birmingham and West Midlands accent apparently can be traced back to a popular BBC radio programme from the 1950s, Educating Archie, with its comedy Brummie character Marlene, played by Beryl Reid. Before that programme, most people had probably never heard a Birmingham accent on radio. Despite the fact that accents change every 25 miles or so across the country, fifty years ago the only accent heard on the BBC was the Received Pronunciation variety.