hii its bougie <3 if you're still taking hc requests, i was wondering if you'd have thoughts on something that's been on my mind for a while. i was interested in the nuance to english culture due to regional differences. eg.,dinner being called "tea" in the north of england, rugby being more popular in the south, the difference in how scones with jam and cream are enjoyed in Devon and Cornwall?? or how certain english accents are perceived as... "less attractive" i guess (the black country accents are unpopular apparently?) -- you'd probably know more about these particularities than me ;u;
i was wondering how these cultural differences might map onto hws England's character, and how they might influence his attitudes and behaviours. because there's such a clearly defined stereotype of the english that i think shape people's expectations of what the english are like, i usually think that Arthur usually consciously acts according to what counts as positive interpretations of himself. however, i love nuanced and somewhat subversive interpretations of his character, and am very curious if you might have any ideas on how these kind of internal regional differences might shape him.
I’m not gonna lie this sent me down a RABBIT HOLE of thoughts, so hang on tight cos we're gonna get messy.
Let’s start with my personal favourite, so excuse me whilst I geek out for a second. I’ve gone into this area already in this headcanon, but I personally see England being a very proud little dragon regarding English accents, those both native and non-native to the British Isles. Focusing just on accents within England for this post, the way Arthur himself sees them, (regarding class and general preference), comes a lot down to how I see him feeling about language and the unification of England in general.
England is a tiny country. It’s really teeny, compared to some, and yet holds an incredible number of regional accents and dialects (from digging about the internet for a good source, I keep finding numbers ranging from 37 to 43). There are a number of reasons for this, but the one that I love the most is that accents are influenced by the previous/ influential other languages spoken in a given area. Accents on the East of England are more influenced by Viking invaders, both phonologically and via the dialectal words used, and accents/ dialects in the West are more influenced by Welsh, for example.
Accents and dialects tell the history of a place, all who ever came there and influenced it to some degree. The map of English accents is a patchwork quilt of old cultures and people now lost to time, but their ways of speaking have been preserved in the modern tongue. The old English kingdoms might now be mere counties- Kent, Essex, Sussex, East Anglia, etc- they may not have their own influence or language these days as they used to, but their old ways have been imprinted on their people of today whether they know it or not and they carry pieces of the past in their words and how they speak them. Older speakers of the Northern English dialects liek the Yorkshire dialect still use ‘thou/thee’ where this has fallen out in other areas, the Midlands and parts of the South-East still keep the ‘-n’ ending for possessive pronouns (‘yourn’ instead of ‘yours’, ‘ourn’ instead of ‘ours’), and there’s even some linguistic research into how Brittonic, the ancestor of Modern Welsh, influenced English structure and phonology (for references, see notes at the end).
Back to England the person (to contain myself slightly), his regional accents are a story of himself, his history being kept alive in all of its variety every day. He doesn’t hold a classist view of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ accent because he knows why they’re all there- what languages and people influenced them and how these events affected him- the older generations now lost and forgotten being kept alive in the smallest of phonemes.
Every dialect, every accent, and every language tells the story of a people, from the smallest phonological marker right up to a language as a whole and England takes comfort and pride in his dialects and accents’ longevity and variety. He is as much of the North as he is the South, as much of the East as the West and a patchwork man born of patchwork cultures it makes no sense for him to favour one particular accent over another.
That being said, he is aware that there is a common cultural stance on accents as well as an opinion regarding ‘ugly’ ones, ‘common’ ones, and ‘classy’ ones, but he himself doesn’t partake in these ideas. I like to think that a nation takes on the speech of the people and the area they’re in, matching the person they speak to or the area they visit to relate to their people. So, for me a Chav Arthur exists as much as a Brummie one does, or a Scouser, or a Geordie, or a Cockney. They’re all English, and thus they’re all a part of him.
I have to include this one, if only to touch on it lightly regarding accents and dialects. Class does influence which words you speak, arguably just as much as which accent (this is known as a sociolect). Although I said that England adopts the accent of whatever area he’s in, or whomever he’s talking to if they’re English, the class people are will also affect which words he choses to use.
Here’s a short example from here:
'It is pudding for the upper class. Dessert is sometimes used by upper middles, but afters and sweets very clearly put you below stairs.'
Have some more!
Upper class: Spectacles, Lavatory or loo, Die, Napkin, Sofa
Middle class: Glasses, Toilet , Pass on, Serviette, Settee or couch
(Working class is a mix but harder to find sources for).
This is where England treads a fine line. It could be that he again adopts more of a class lexicon regarding who he is speaking to, matching his people word for word. However, England is not unaware of the affects of class, regardless of how he himself feels, and also although class snobbery and divide frustrate him, he cannot deny using this understanding to benefit himself, which also conforms to how his own people behave. (I myself have, many times, diluted and filtered my speech to be seen as ‘better’).
Want to be seen as more reliable and powerful? Want to be taken more seriously? RP and Estuary English (a lot more so these days), hold undeniable sway and England is not above adopting a manner of speaking to come across ‘better’ or more polite, or a more ‘common’ accent to fit in with the working classes. I think of England as leaning more towards a working-class mindset- he’s very hands on, very up for and used to manual labour and this particular English class has always made up the bulk of his population. It makes no sense for a nation, who represents all of their people, to have a snide view or a preference for a particular group and England as a person I see is someone who does not enjoy the foppery and false airs of aristocracy.
That being said, England is an intelligent man. He knows how to work a room and use a crowd to his advantage, knows what must be done and what he needs to do to achieve a goal and if this entails courting the upper classes for a time then he will do so. He’s adepts at switching himself like a chameleon, blending his behaviours, accent, and dialect to match who he’s talking to to achieve a goal or to fit in with someone’s perception of him, or to gain influence or prestige. He also doesn’t hate his upper classes- they are of him too, and the middle and working class have their own prejudices and ideas against the others. But he doesn’t adopt a stereotypical distain of lower classes because to him, it really doesn’t make much sense.
Abroad, this need to cultivate a particular perception defiantly comes under greater pressure. RP and Estuary English are more well know, more heard and taught, and more recognisably ‘British’, and so these are what he uses when speaking English to other nations or foreigners, either wanting to uphold an image of himself (more so in the Victorian/ Edwardian period than nowadays) or just for the ease of being understood.
Okay, this one is a lot more fun. Does England put in his milk first or last when making tea? Does he put jam first, or clotted cream when having a scone? Does he have chips with gravy, or curry sauce? Does he have dinner at 6, or 9? To marmite, or not to marmite.
Ah, that is the question, and England does not know the answer. Does he do what he does because that’s what he likes, or because that’s what his people do? He didn’t grow up with these habits, after all, they’re all relatively recent in his lifetime, and so these habits are defiantly things he cultures for a particular audience.
I’m not really sure if the above preferences are class based, (well, milk first when making tea is argued to be, but I can't find any sources I'd consider entirely credible. I put the ones I did find in the notes below, in case any one's interested), so it’s hard to get a sense of which one to use. Overall, it doesn’t matter which you do and neither is right or wrong, but the English feel strongly about them, one way or another, and often Arthur the man isn’t sure at all which one he himself actually thinks is better.
Food in another sense though is something he can be surer of. A Cornish pastie not from Cornwall is not worth eating, nor is a Bakewell tart outside of Bakewell. England can be very particular about this sort of thing and enjoys maintaining and supporting the ‘original’ flavour or recipe of a thing where he can, considering this to be the ‘best’. Sally Lunn Buns from Bath, Gypsy tarts from Kent, Eccles Cakes from Eccles.
England wants to preserve his food and culture and has what could be considered a snobbish view on the ‘best’ way of creating or eating his national foods. Some things he is more lenient with: he will eat cheddar cheese, whether or not it is from Cheddar, same from Cumberland sausages not from Cumbria. But he certainly has a preference and he is not afraid to voice this when asked for his opinion.
Okay, we're done
Phew! This had me digging out my old linguistic student brain. To anyone who has made it this far down, gosh golly miss molly thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the ride, and especially @prickyy who was kind enough to want to hear my opinions about all of this <3
Brittonic influence on English:
Sociolects and class distinction within language in English:
Milk in tea first and the potential class reason:
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Hey what are they like in jealousy, both of them, have they ever doubted their affections were unrequited? Who confesses first? Don't know if you've answered these 😅
hey <3 so many questions! thank you
Arthur and Alasdair are remarkably alike but one of the ways in which they are not is how they deal with jealousy.
Alasdair isn’t ashamed of how zealous he can be, and that certainly extends to jealousy. I don’t see nations as being particularly concerned with monogamy but Alasdair in particular is… focused. When it comes to Arthur especially. His jealousy is as possessive as it protective (and more than a little cocky).
I’ve talked a little before of how I see Alasdair as being the first one to accept what he feels for Arthur but I haven’t talked of this: when he realises that he loves Arthur, that’s it. He’s been had. He knows himself enough to know that even if Arthur never loves him back in the same way, he cannot change what he feels (and that deep down, he doesn’t want to). It’s one of the reasons why it takes Arthur much longer to catch on to what’s going on; Alasdair never fundamentally changes how he treats him and doesn’t pursue Arthur actively for a long time (or it’s more like he’s not pursuing Arthur in a way Arthur recognises. He’s not obvious like say, Francis or Alfred would be, but if Arthur had looked a little harder it would have spared them both a lot.)
Arthur internalises jealousy, lets it feed off insecurities which he would sooner die than admit to. He doubts and overthinks, and bristles at the suggestion that it could be easy, he could just let himself have this. It isn’t a ploy or a joke at his expense, it's not Alasdair having him on.
It makes Alasdair want to bury his fingers in Arthur’s hair and tug on his roots until he stops thinking. (And he does fist Arthur’s hair and give him a shake. Nudge his thigh. Bite the bend of his neck, when Arthur has been quiet for too long or looks troubled.)
As for confessions— it’s hard to say.
Because they have both confessed.
Privately, in public, drunk, sober. Grand, angry declarations, quiet wordless confessions. It’s just that by a silent, unacknowledged agreement, sometimes they just pretend nothing happened. They are infuriatingly stubborn, BOTH of them. I could go on about that for ages. But for the official confession well, I think it’s nothing grand; if anything it's almost a little awkward.
Just feels like coming home.
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