Donna Air’s ‘Posh’ Accent

August 8th 2013

Well, the tabloids haven’t taken too kindly to Donna reportedly dating Kate Middleton’s brother, James.

Hot off the heels of misreporting her as being married to Damian Aspinall for several years (which, as far as I’m aware, they never were), they now seem to be variously either reminding Donna that James Middleton ‘isn’t that posh’, or berating her for ‘losing her accent’ because – yes – she’s going out with a posh bloke.

Impressively, it’s not just the tabloids who are weighing in on this one, and the Independent’s Simon Kelner has managed to compile perhaps the most ill-informed, self-contradictory opinion piece of the lot.

Mr Kelner varyingly refers to Donna as a “real-life Eliza Doolittle”, confesses that “I have obviously never seen her present anything on television” (that’s going to make for a well-informed article then, isn’t it?), and suggests that her softened accent stems from a desire to “fit in with the posh set with whom she’s now socialising”.

Despite opening his article in defence of Donna, Mr Kelner spends most of it implying that she is somehow deliberately altering the way she speaks, because she’s dating a Middleton. Which would be fine, if her accent had abruptly changed in the past few weeks.

But it hasn’t; it’s been gradually changing for more than a decade, during which time Donna hasn’t lived any closer to Newcastle than, say, David Cameron does.

Here’s Donna in Hotel Babylon in 2008, as an example:

Not only is Donna’s accent clearly partway between Geordie and her so-called ‘plummy’ accent of present-day; this episode is also a particularly useful example of why Donna’s relationship with James Middleton really is not the driving force behind her steadily drifting (not abruptly changing) accent.

That’s because, not only was this five years ago – and long before she started dating James – but the anguish in her performance is because she had only just separated from Damian Aspinall, demonstrating that her accent was already noticeably different from its Geordie origins even then.

And if you still don’t believe me, this post on (which, weirdly, seems to be a Jamie Cullum discussion forum at heart) proves that other viewers noticed Donna’s “half posh English, half Geordie” accent at the time.

It’s a little disappointing that the press are being as lazy as ever in the way they report Donna’s life – not to mention the thinly veiled hostility they seem to have for her – but given that many of them still refer to her as Damian Aspinall’s ‘ex-wife’, it comes as no surprise.

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