Global superstar Cheryl Cole is a well-recognised icon across the world who is well known for her distinct Geordie accent. Now, when some people think of Newcastle and its strong accent they probably think of our beloved Cheryl Cole, establishing an association between the two.

For several years this hasn’t really been an issue, our glamorous Geordie has been on our screens for several years and hardly any complaints about her accent have been made. Things changed when she decided to move to America and become a judge on the X-Factor US with co-host Simon Cowell, who was accused of sacking the British sweetheart. Cowell was proven innocent of these accusations as he has previously worked with Cheryl Cole and had absolutely no problem with the Geordie accent. However, it was later confirmed that the American network producers have fired Cheryl because of her accent and dialect. Now I would call that prejudice.

But hold on, didn’t Nicole Scherzinger replace Cheryl Cole on the UK X-Factor without any hesitation or complaints? Perhaps this could be explained because the American accent is more ‘famous’ and well-recognised. Perhaps, too, the British public are more tolerant and understanding than the American audience? I’ll leave that to speculation.

Now not to be completely biased, but it could be that the Americans are very pedantic about the kinds of accents they tolerate. This could be explained because they’re not familiar with certain accents from Britain because they’ve not yet established a ‘good’ association to go with it. Whereas we’ve accepted Nicole Scherzinger as our judge because we recognise that her accent and iconic imagery as channeled through the media, has subtly influenced our acceptance and ideas of her.

Accents in Britain are very profound; depending on the accent we immediately establish a personality to go with it. For instance when we hear an Essex accent we think of binge drinking, all-night partying, and excuse my bias, dumb blondes. Not everyone has visited Essex nor know anyone from there, but the media has had a great toll on our basic ideas of what people are like depending on the accents they carry.

Paul Coggle, a professor of linguistics at the University of Kent, said “No accent is intrinsically good or bad, but it has to be recognised” This basically means that there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ or a ‘good’ way of speaking. But, people must be familiar with it. This could explain why network producers have asked Cheryl Cole to leave the show. He continues to say “Different people have different perceptions” so maybe to some Americans the Geordie accent could have appealed to them if they were true fans of Chezza. This perhaps could be a link to why X-Factor US dropped her, because not as many people are huge fans of her, or ‘like’ her enough to bear with her accent. So, the accent is still to blame but nobody gave her a chance because she was unfortunately not THAT famous.

Some may argue that accents are linked to association; if the American audience cannot create a positive link between the Geordie accent and Cheryl herself they won’t even bother trying to give her a chance. Andersson and Trudgill, authors of Bad Language, said that “American listeners, who do not recognise a Birmingham accent when they hear one, who know nothing about Birmingham and who probably don’t even know where it is, do not find the Birmingham accent unpleasant at all. And everything they know about London leads them to find London accents highly attractive.” This could be an explanation as to why the Americans are not crazy about Cheryl’s accent; they probably didn’t even know where Newcastle is, or even if it exists. So why bother trying to understand a Geordie accent?

Accents and dialects have recently become a dilemma, especially this new Estuary English everyone’s talking about. Estuary English is neither posh nor cockney it’s somewhere in between, they speak standard and formal English, but their pronunciations of some words may be different. Estuary-English speakers are usually working-class who try and speak ‘properly’. John Grace, also a writer from the Guardian ‘blames’ Eastenders for the spread of Estuary English.

Susie Dent suggested that the Queens movement of the vowel (a, e, i, o, u) has changed from ‘posh’ to ‘received pronunciation’ whereas everyone else went from ‘received pronunciation’ to ‘Esturay English’ this in itself shows the shift of the English dialect and mixing of other regions. And I’m sure similar shifting is happening within the US.

You’re probably thinking what this has got to do with why Cheryl Cole being asked to step down as an X-factor judge in the US? Well, in Britain, London specifically, we have our own views of what ‘posh’ or speaking ‘proper’ is. But to the Americans you can have an incredibly strong Cockney accent and live in a pub and they’d see it as highly attractive. However, every other British accent has been forgotten about and therefore frowned upon, ultimately resulting in disinterest, with no real attempt to understand what someone like Cheryl is trying to say.

Is it fair that Cheryl Cole was given the sack because of her accent or could she have made an effort to change it? Some may say good on her that she didn’t try to change her accent to suit the Americans. I mean it’s just a TV show. Let’s face it, it’s not like this is going to affect her career in any way.

Cheryl. An international superstar, singer, TV personality and the new face of L’Oréal. How famous could she possibly get, give it a few years’ time, we’ll be welcoming back our favourite Geordie superstar onto our screens sooner than we think. Don’t want to be a spoiler but…rumours going around that Cheryl may be coming back as a judge on the X-Factor UK this year, Geordie accent back on the panel where it belongs with people who enjoy the accent.

So, has the Geordie star hit career downfall after being “let go” from X-Factor USA because of her distinct accent? The answer is an easy no. Perhaps an embarrassing setback for Cheryl because she’s so used to being loved by the British public and hasn’t had such crude complaints about her accent before but let’s face it, she’s been through worse.

Therefore, it could be that attitudes towards accents are based on social connotation rather than; I-just-don’t-understand-what-the-heck-she-is-saying-whatever-it-is-I-don’t-like-it. I hereby use this as a solid explanation as to why our iconic international Geordie star has been fired.


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