Tric Kearney: An accent is only a part of who we are

WHERE are you from?
If you were to answer this question, would you name where you are currently living, or say, without hesitation, the parish, town, or city where you were born?

I’m asked this question regularly, due in no small part to my rather mongrel mix of accents. 

“I’m a Dub’,” I immediately answer, my accent morphing into one not out of place in Dublin’s inner-city Liberties. 

Except, I’m not from the Liberties, I don’t have a strong Dublin accent, and I’ve been living in Cork for 26 years.

Why do I do this? Well, how ridiculous would it sound if I were to say, in a sing-song Cork accent, that I was a Dub’?

I grew up in a Dublin south-side suburb, with parents who hailed from Donegal. 

I’d a major northern twang all through childhood, but, on entering secondary school, actively tried to lose it. 

I did a reasonably good job. I replaced my mother’s regular, ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’ with a simple, ‘Jaysus’.

There was no more ‘What are ye sayin?’; as ‘Wha?’ was way simpler. By the time I was leaving my teens, I’d transitioned into a real ‘Dub’.

Right about the time I met ‘yer man’.

It’s a wonder we got on at all, because I hadn’t a clue what he was saying, most of the time. 

He hailed from Cork, not an accent I was hugely familiar with, but I was willing to overlook his strange way of speaking, as he was easy on the eye.

Yes, at 19, that was way more important. Somehow, we overcame the language barrier and, in Cork speak, became an item.

However, as the years rolled by I discovered I had an innate ability to mimic accents.

I’ve heard it said that those with a good ear for music can do that. 

Well, I am only sorry I was not encouraged to move beyond the recorder, for I must be in the top 10% musically. I only have to fly over a country to pick up an accent and, once acquired, it is not cast away lightly.

Those of you familiar with the sing-song nature of Cork natives will probably understand that, with my undiscovered musical talent, this was an accent I was going to find it hard to resist.

I did try, though. In the first few years, I would sometimes over-exaggerate my Dublin accent, and, for a while, I did a reasonable job, until the birth of my children.

When we speak, we rarely hear how we truly sound, but there was no doubt, as my children grew up, that I had reared true children of the rebel county.

Sometimes, I would listen to their high-pitched, up-and-down lilt and wonder why they had no trace of my accent. 

After all, I was a stay-at-home mother who had spent many an hour chatting, shouting, and, on occasions, I admit, roaring at them. 

Not only did they not adopt any of my more Dublin turns-of-phrase, but they laughed at them. For years, I despaired.

It is only lately, as they have begun to live more independent lives, that I’ve come to understand why.

I have four children who were born and reared in Cork. The rebel county roars through their veins.

They may move on, travel the world, live in different places, but, regardless of what accent they possess in the future, I have little doubt, when asked, ‘Where do you come from?’ they will answer, with a sing-song lilt, ‘Cork’.

Accent is only a part of who we are. 

The real truth is something much deeper and why, despite 26 years in Cork, I still shout, ‘Up the Dubs’.


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