Research conducted by Kiwi Movers has found that two in five Britons alter the way they speak when communicating with tradespeople. Over half of men said they’ve done the “tradesmen voice” at least once, with blokes who work in the financial industry most likely to slip up. 19% of women said they’d done it too.

London Movers Less Likely to Hear “Tradesman Voice”

Thankfully as a London moving firm, we’re less likely than our mates in the trades up north to encounter this quirk, as northerners are most likely to do it.

Our study of more than 1,000 people found that 38 percent of us who do change the way we speak to tradespeople do it because they’re trying to “connect.” As a firm of removals professionals who absolutely love meeting new people, we often wonder if that guy moving the antique sideboard from his Chelsea townhouse really does call a cup of tea a “brew” or whether he’s just trying to speak our language; either way, we’re happy to be offered a drink.

The habit of speaking in a different voice is known as bidialectism. It happens when people try to fit in with those around them. In the case of ‘tradesmen voice,’ this most commonly affects men, people living in the North West and those in finance.

Who is most likely to put on a tradesman voice?

By location

North West – 48 percent

West Midlands – 45 percent

East Midlands – 44 percent

South East – 42 percent

North East – 40 percent

By profession

Finance – 47 percent

Creative industries – 43 percent

Education – 42 percent

Health and social work – 40 percent

Business services – 41 percent

How we change how we speak for tradespeople

When we asked our respondents to tell us the main way in which they change their speech, over half said it was a matter of altering their vocabulary. 21% said they pronounce words differently when speaking to tradespeople, while 16% said they hammed up their own dialect. 4% said they didn’t know exactly how they changed the way they speak, but were sure they did it.

Linguistics expert Enna Bartlett from marketing firm Venn Digital explains why we are so keen to modify our speech.

“The way in which you talk is known as ‘register’. People tend to vary their register based on the purpose of what they’re doing or the social setting they are in. This is called ‘accommodation.’ You can over-accommodate though. If you change how you speak too much then the person you’re speaking to will notice that that’s probably not your normal way of speaking. Quite often over-accommodation can come across as patronising.”

Director of Kiwi Movers director Regan McMillan believes most tradespeople notice when a customer is changing their speech. “When someone isn’t using their natural voice, it’s actually quite easy to spot, even if you’ve never spoken to them before. Our movers have noticed it happening and don’t take offence, but it really isn’t necessary for people to change how they speak just because they’ve got tradespeople visiting.

“We’ve got chartered accountants, a geologist and qualified nurses working in our removals teams, so they’re relatively well educated. There’s really no need to dumb it down for our team, or indeed the majority of tradespeople, although we really don’t mind whether you call it a brew or a cup of tea, we’re just grateful for the drink.”