English Language & Linguistics
Linguistics Challenges: Accents Make Your Food Exciting
Knorr cooking sauces once had a TV advert with the catch phrase: ‘Just say Knorr to boring food,’ spoken by Vernon Kay. Why would the catch phrase have been less effective if David Cameron had been the speaker?
Vernon Kay is from Bolton in Greater Manchester. The traditional accent of this area has the same vowel sound in no as in Knorr, unlike other accents. So, when Vernon Kay says ‘Just say Knorr to boring food’ he pronounces it in exactly the same way as if he said ‘Just say no to boring food’. The pun would be lost if David Cameron were the speaker because in his accent, Knorr and no have different vowel sounds.
Interestingly, what people know about accents and dialects depends to a large extent on their experience of them. Most British English speakers find it easy to identify a northern and a southern speaker, but more difficult to identify accents that are specific to smaller areas. The success of the Knorr advert depends on the audience being aware of the Bolton accent. Had Knorr run the advert twenty years ago, the pun might have been missed by most of the audience. But, in the last ten years, there have been several celebrities from Bolton who have increased people’s exposure to this variety.
You can find further discussion of accents and dialects, how to recognise them, and attitudes towards them in Professor Joan Beal’s book Language and Region. Joan Beal is Professor of English Language at the University of Sheffield and an authority on accents and dialects, a subject which she teaches on our English Language and Linguistics course.
Click here to see further details of the book at the publisher’s website.