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The disappearing 'Manc' accent: How outsiders changed the way Mancunians speak
Plus: Graham Brady duped by activist group, and the story of Mason Greenwood at Manchester United
Dear Millers — all 33,000 of you, after a rush of new signups from the Guardian-reading enclaves of north London, Didsbury and Heaton Mersey. Actually — owing to our primitive technology and deep commitment to reader privacy — we have no idea where our spate of new Millers live, but welcome to all of you who joined since we were featured in this morning’s Guardian.
“It’s becoming like the Hunger Games for journalists,” says one reporter in the paper’s story about the alarming state of local news, which notes that the MEN’s parent company Reach Plc has put about 620 jobs at risk this year so far in two rounds of redundancies. And yet, “it is far from all doom and gloom in local media,” says the Guardian, mentioning us and our sister newsletters in Liverpool and Sheffield.
“The most important thing I’ve learned from the last few years is that there is a massive demand for high-quality journalism,” says Mill founder and editor Joshi. “The decline is not because people don’t want good local journalism. The model is broken.”
In today’s briefing, we bring you news about the virtual disappearance of “Manc” accents in the south of the city, based on new research released today. We also round up the news you need to know about, including a book deal and a speeding conviction for Andy Burnham and an eye-opening long read about Manchester United’s troubled star Mason Greenwood.
Coming up this week, we have some fantastic journalism about Greater Manchester’s efforts — if that is the right word — to reach Net Zero, and whether local politicians are even aware of their progress towards that goal. We’re also writing about a book that tells the recent history of this city and asks how pivotal the Haçienda was in Manchester’s 21st-century growth story. To read those stories, get all of our members-only journalism and join our community, please join up now as a paying member. For £1.30 a week you can become a patron of great local journalism and keep yourself impeccably informed. If you’re not a member yet, fix that using the button below.
Thanks as always for your tweets and emails about our weekend read — a deep dive into the new devolution deal signed between Greater Manchester and the government. One reader called it an “admirably clear and insightful explanation,” and another tweeted: “‘Prising powers out of the dead hands of the British state’ is my life’s work and will be on my tombstone thanks @manchestermill”.
🌦 This week’s weather
This week’s forecast is from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says temperatures are finally turning milder this week but we can expect a bit of drizzle — keep your umbrella handy.
Monday 🌤️ Mostly dry with large amounts of spring sunshine. Light winds. Max 11C.
Tuesday 🌧️ Chilly and wet with outbreaks of moderate to heavy rain. Breezy. Max 10C.
Wednesday 🌦 Mild and breezy with heavy showers. Max 15C.
Thursday 🌦 Sunny spells and heavy showers. Warm in the sunshine. Windy. Max 17C.
Friday 🌦 Rain followed by a mixture of sunshine and showers. Max 16C.
Weekend 🌦 Remaining mild and changeable.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: The disappearing Manc accent
Top line: The Manc accent isn’t what it used to be. Linguistic experts at the University of Manchester have found that a key feature of the Mancunian accent is beginning to fade as the city attracts a new generation of educated professionals.
Context: Say “for”. Okay, now say “four”. Notice a difference? No? You probably live in south Manchester. Or at least that’s what Dr Maciej Baranowski has found. Baranowski spoke with 122 people from within the M60, to see if there really is a difference between the north and south Mancunian accent.
Class: Up to now, that view has only been anecdotal, and the classic explanation for it has been socioeconomic. If you live in north Manchester, you’re more likely to be working class and therefore have what is considered a more working-class accent. But if that’s true, it means working-class people in south Manchester should also have that accent. This study has found that they don’t.
Baranowski defines this using the “north-force distinction” — where words like “four” and “wore” have a different pronunciation to “for” and “war”. In south Manchester, this distinction is disappearing, so “four” and “for” sound the same. In north Manchester neighbourhoods — for clarity, we’re talking about the north of the borough of Manchester, not Greater Manchester — the distinction remains surprisingly strong, even amongst the middle classes.
That’s the key point — independent of social class, the distinction still holds in north Manchester. Whereas in south Manchester (places like Didsbury and Wythenshawe) it is disappearing or has gone altogether.
So why does it matter? It’s a rare phenomenon. Usually, differentiation in accents is almost always down to class, not neighbourhood. Even Brooklynese, the dialect that — you guessed it — is believed to be spoken by natives of Brooklyn, New York, is actually just how working-class New Yorkers speak in general.
In Manchester? Not so. Instead, the accent has been influenced by what is known as a “neighbourhood effect”. North Manchester hasn’t attracted the same number of people from outside of the city over the last few decades. South Manchester has, and south Mancunians being exposed to people from other parts of the country like London has meant their accents have “merged”. This not happening in the north means they have retained what might be called a more traditional Mancunian accent, as Baranowski writes:
“A working-class child growing up in north Manchester is much less likely to be exposed to merged speakers than a working-class child from south Manchester, and is therefore more likely to preserve the phonemic distinction heard in their parents’ and grandparents’ speech.”
Want to read more about accents outside of Manchester? Read our interview with Dr Rob Drummond, who led the Manchester Voices study, which uncovered the rich tapestry of accents that make up our city region as a whole.
Home of the week
A three bedroom terraced house with period features and a blooming garden was just reduced to £264,500. It’s in Delph Village, a short walk from the River Tame, a pub, an Italian restaurant and a cocktail bar.
Your Mill briefing
Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram are writing a book. The mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region will release Look North! A Rallying Cry for a More Equal Britain next January. In the book, Burnham and Rotheram will reflect on their time in modern politics and offer “a new vision for Britain with realistic steps to create a fairer future for all”. Here’s hoping the advance will cover that £2,000 fine Burnham is set to pay after driving 78 mph in a 40 mph zone. The mayor says he was “not aware of any variable speed limit in place on the smart motorway at the time”.
Graham Brady, chair of the influential 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers and MP for Altrincham and Sale West, is one of a collection of MPs duped into entering talks with a fake South Korean firm looking for help approaching government figures. Set up by activist group Led by Donkeys, Brady told the fake company that a rate of £6,000 a day “feels about right”. He told the Guardian: “I made it clear that any arrangement would have to be completely transparent and that, whilst a member of parliament, I would only act within the terms of the code of conduct.” You can read our piece on Brady’s decision to stand down at the next election here.
Greater Manchester Police have seized 2,800 vape pens across Bolton in response to three “medical incidents” linked to the devices at a local high school. Those involved in the incidents have made full recoveries, though the details of the incidents and the school they happened at remain undisclosed. GMP’s Steph Parker said: “Health colleagues have already issued a warning in relation to illegal vapes which may produce a highly-toxic gas.”
A 33-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after the shooting of Zikel Bobmanuel, 32, in Openshaw on Saturday. Police have described the incident as a “targeted” attack and are appealing for information. They say a second man, thought to have escaped the scene, is still at large.
Our favourite reads
Mason Greenwood at Manchester United, the backstory — The Athletic
“Whether he is seen on a pitch again is uncertain,” reports this in-depth story about Manchester United’s most talented and controversial young star, who was charged with attempted rape before the charges against him were dropped. “United have rejected offers from Turkish sides as the club’s internal investigation continues. Some at United even feel he could play for the club again. Going down that path would cause a national moral conundrum and also trigger a sporting debate. Sponsors have privately expressed concerns about a return. Some members of the women’s team would take major issue.”
Baghdad Country Club — Atavist
During the Iraq conflict’s bloodiest years, two men — James, a British soldier turned contractor, and Ahmed, a businessman from Manchester — created the Baghdad Country Club, a bar in the Green Zone that sold illicit bottles of Bordeaux and cigars to mercenaries, diplomats, contractors and peacekeepers. “Patrons would check their weapons in a safe, like coats in a coatroom, and leave the war behind as they wandered past a sign that read: BAGHDAD COUNTRY CLUB, NO GUNS, NO AMMUNITION, NO GRENADES, NO FLASH BANGS, NO KNIVES — NO EXCEPTIONS!”
A stunning new Magnificat — The Times
Five stars for the Hallé’s performance of Magnificat at Bridgewater Hall last week, with praise for the soprano Sophie Bevan, who delivered “warmth, power and some superbly floated high notes [that] suggested a voice reborn”, and the conductor Ryan Wigglesworth, who conjured something “individual and genuine” and drew out “superb playing” from the Hallé choir.
‘Gigantically ambitious and pointedly bonkers’ — The Guardian
This glowing review of MUSU, the new contemporary Japanese restaurant and nightclub on Bridge Street and “possibly the most expensive restaurant in Manchester”, by the Guardian’s Grace Dent, says the extravagant £150 tasting menu, plus drinks, serves “miniscule portions of exquisite pleasure”. “Vincent Braine and Marius Kamara clearly have big dreams, bigger investment and extensive notes on what diners are spending their cash on in 2023.” Have you eaten at MUSU? Get in touch: email@example.com.
Our to do list
🖼️ A new exhibition at Contemporary Six on Princess Street explores post-war British art, drawing interesting connections between a variety of artists including L S Lowry, the late modernist Margaret Mellis and abstract landscape artist Alan Reynolds. It’s showing for two weeks only.
🥁 The Viridian Trio, an established contemporary jazz group who met while studying at Leeds Conservatoire, will be playing a free gig at Matt & Phreds, who draw their influences from Persian classical music. It’s happy hour all night, meaning if you buy two drinks, you can get a free pizza.
📚 Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure and Cursed Bread, and Polly Barton, author of Porn: An Oral History will be speaking at Blackwell’s from 6.30pm. Tickets are just £3.60.
🗣️ Helen Pankhurst — granddaughter of Sylvia, great-granddaughter of Emmeline — will be reflecting on women’s rights in past, present and future in an online talk. Tickets are just £5, and go towards the Pankhurst Trust and Manchester Women’s Aid.
🎞️ Julien Donkey-Boy, the story of a teenage boy with untreated schizophrenia living in a dysfunctional family, is showing as part of Withington’s Café Blah’s regular film screenings which explore lesser-known and cult film favourites. It starts at 8pm, and it’s free to attend.
🖌️ Se7en Brothers in Salford is hosting a painting class inspired by Gustav Kilmt’s Tree of Life, accompanied by glasses of wine and a playlist of Austrian Symphonies “to immerse you in the experience”. Tickets here.