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Perspective: Pig ignorant about the Brummie accent; Lydia Stockdale is snorting with anger over the constant attacks on the Brummie accent.

Byline: Lydia Stockdale

I don't have a problem with pigs - Pot-Bellieds, Berkshires, Chester-Whites - they're all fine with me.

What I do object to is the fact that every time a pig character is used in a television advertisement it always has a Birmingham accent.

A few years ago a moronic fat pig with a Birmingham accent that was used to advertise Colman's Potato Bakes.

Then in 2002 we had the Nick Park animated Brummie Hell's Angel Pigs that were used to advertise British Gas.

We had a break from pigs in advertisements for a couple of years until another one popped up in the form of 'Dave the window-cleaner pig' in the current ITV adverts and - surprise, surprise - he's another Brummie!

Pigs are intelligent animals; apparently they have more brainpower than any other animal apart from humans. But these oh so original Brummie pigs thought up by advertisers are always dim characters, put out there for a bit of a laugh.

What this demonstrates is a pure lack of imagination on behalf of advertisers. You can just imagine them sitting around a boardroom thinking up an advert for a completely nonBirmingham related product.

'OK, so we're going to use an animated animal, a dog maybe', 'No, no, dogs are too fluffy and cute - we need something more . more human', 'I know, how about a pig, pigs aren't fluffy, and they can look quite funny', 'What about the voice?'

'Well, it's got to be from Birmingham - they speak funny there that'd get a few smiles an ever so slightly dumb Brummie pig ha! ha! ha!'.

Advertisers use the social stereotypes attached to the Birmingham accent (and I think it's fair to say that across the UK Brummies are stereotyped as being slow, down-to-earth characters) and use them in the characterisation of their piggy creations.

So the slightly lazy, even subtly smelly, pig cartoons become everyday kind of fellows; not the sharpest tools in the box perhaps but they are quite funny even if they aren't intelligent enough to realise it.

Socio-linguists have proven that there are no inherent values in the sounds of accents - the connotations that are attached to a particular accent (and therefore the people who speak with it) are entirely socially constructed.

Now, you could say that I'm taking this Birmingham pig business a little bit too seriously, but I don't think so.

On first impressions we are all judged on our appearances, what we say, and how we say it. And whether we like it or not, we are all influenced by what we see and hear - we unconsciously absorb the ideas that come along with stereotyping in the media.

Proof of the fact that viewers unquestioningly use the values they're fed by the television is that they believe the accents spoken by these so-called 'Brummie' characters are Birmingham accents, but every Midlander knows that they get it wrong every time. It is often the Black-Country accent that is mimicked, not a Birmingham one.

I don't think being so frequently characterised as pigs can do much for the image of people from Birmingham. Pigs live in pigsties - so it can't do much for city itself either can it?

I don't understand how this sort of stereotyping can go by without any comment. Admittedly, these little pigs are animated on 50-second advertisements - but how can we ignore the fact that they could, even in some small way, contribute to negative perceptions of individuals based on little more than how they speak?

It's nothing less than socially acceptable snobbery.

Advertisements are made to have an impact - and they do.

If I was to count on my fingers the amount of times I've had the Prudential advertisement's 'We wanna be togevva' line quoted to me, I'd quickly run out of hands. That advert was on years ago!

It's the social connotations attached to accents that are monotonous, miserable, ugly, and unconstructive. Unless, of course, you're an advertiser, in which case you get paid serious money regurgitating the same cheap ideas time and time again.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 2, 2004
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