Don't Mind Me: The sexiest voices in Ireland

Patricia Feehily

Reporter:

Patricia Feehily

Don't Mind Me: The sexiest voices in Ireland

Well kid! Limerick ranked 4th and Tipperary 13th in a recent sexiest accent survey

NOW that regional accents are cool again and, in some cases, becoming a bit of a game changer for job applicants, it looks as if Limerick is on the crest of the wave after getting its ‘spake in’, so to say, among the most desirable accents in the country. On the other hand, Tipperary people may need a quota system to compete with their sexier sounding neighbours and competitors. We’re too flat, apparently, to make much of an impression in this falsetto-obsessed society.

The Limerick accent came fourth in a recent online survey of the sexiest voices in Ireland, which is a source of great angst to me seeing that the Tipperary accent only ranked a miserable 13th. Now, although I spent all my life in both counties, I never noticed any difference between the two tongues until the Rubberbandits came on the scene and wrecked my eardrums.

I can’t, for the life of me, understand, either, why I didn’t pick up the Limerick accent after working there for nearly 30 years. But how was I to know that it would be such a prized possession one day? Be that as it may, Tipperary is now at a major disadvantage because of this new emphasis on sexy regional accents. We’re threatened with discrimination because of the way we speak.

It’s no longer who you are, where you come from or who you know when you’re job hunting. It’s how you sound, and the Tipperary accent has been judged as ‘too flat’ to be sexy. There’s a lilt in the Limerick air apparently that becomes less mellifluous the closer you come to the Slieve Felim hills and the Glen of Aherlow.

And there was I thinking that there was nothing between us only the hurling.

Great! It wasn’t as if I didn’t have an inferiority complex already about what I considered (with apologies to Kavanagh) my ‘thick tongued mumble”. Throughout my life, all attempts to talk posh fell . . . you’ve guessed it . . . dead flat the minute I opened my mouth. And it wasn’t for want of trying.

It didn’t matter at school when we were all flat – apart from the musically gifted who sounded slightly hysterical when they got excited. But the minute I got a job in the County Council, I realised that, even before I conquered the complex task of translating planning application forms into Irish, I’d have to master telephone-speak. It took me the bones of four years, before I could even manage to sound friendly on the line, not to talk of sexy.

Then, by a sheer fluke, I became the first secretary of the local branch of An Taisce, where nearly everyone on the committee spoke Anglo-Irish. There was nothing for it but to say as little as possible, but once when I did have to utter a few words, the chairman at the time, the late Brigadier W.S. Hickie, a kindly old gentleman, who had won great acclaim for his part in the war, turned to me and said in rich plummy tones that slowly rose to a crescendo: “Say that again!”

Years later in Chicago, when I was introduced to a horde of long-lost relations whose ancestors had emigrated from the Slieve Felim hills to work in the city’s stockyards nearly a century earlier, I overheard a chance remark from one cousin to another that almost reduced me to tears. “Hasn’t she a wonderful brogue?” she said. Then she compounded the insult by asking me if we still had dirt floors in our houses back in the old sod.

But now it seems, regional accents are coming into their own and even a Tipperary accent is far superior to a Dublin 4 accent. According to that recent poll, South Dublin ‘speak’ is harder on the ear than a voice from any other part of the country. Limerick, however, shouldn’t get too fond of the sound of its own voice. It was fourth in the list of the most acceptable accents in the country, but ironically in a counter poll citing the worst accents in the country, Limerick came sixth. Maybe that one was conducted from Tipperary or maybe, as Micheal Martin says, you should never pay too much heed to the polls.

The trouble is that, like every other accent on this little island, there is more than one Limerick accent.

All the inhabitants of the city do not speak with the same voice and they don’t all speak the same as the people of Mountcollins, or Foynes or Oola. The latter unfortunately or fortunately as the case may be, have more of a Tipperary inflection. My own favourite accent is the Nenagh accent, but outside of the town of Nenagh, nobody in Tipperary speaks with the Nenagh accent or calls the town Naynagh, as we all did in our thick-mumbled youth.

Poll respondents described the Kerry accent as like a ‘soft breeze’ - except when Danny Healy Ray speaks - and the Clare voice as being ‘loud’ and Roscommon as being ‘ poetic’. Tipperary, they said was “flat, but inoffensive” and having very little “pulling power”.

Now, Michael Lowry and Mattie McGrath and few others might have something to say about that.