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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 14:51 GMT
'My Scouse pain'
Derek Hatton, Claire Sweeney, Harry Enfield
Coom 'ed: Well-known Scousers

It's International Scouse Day, a time for Liverpudlians to celebrate their unique heritage. But hailing from Merseyside's capital is not without its irritations.
Historically, scouse is just stew. But peer into the murky depths of the pan and you can see the outline of a much-maligned city.

The word itself is derived from lobscouse, a corruption of a Scandinavian term brought by the sailors during Liverpool's mightiest maritime years.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Apparently they were popular musicians
But Merseyside no longer conjures up images of shipbuilding excellence, big-spending cotton barons and a gateway to the Empire.

Latterday Liverpudlians travelling or settling elsewhere in the UK seem unable to avoid an altogether more negative reaction to their birthplace.

If I had a pound for every time I have encountered "calm down, calm down" or hilarious gags about stolen hubcaps and car stereos, I would own Liverpool.

Butt of jokes

It seems the Liverpool of the southern imagination is a place full of shellsuit-wearing rogues who prowl the streets looking for houses to burgle, their hands bedecked with glistening sovereign rings.

Yosser Hughes
Liverpool has seen serious unemployment and deprivation
While Manchester has turned into the de facto capital of the North West, in its shadow, Liverpool has become the butt of a thousand jokes.

But the city sometimes does itself no favours.

Scouseness covers everything that is unique and amusing about Liverpool, yet it also provokes a morass of infuriating, introspective tweeness.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the most patriotic Liverpudlians cannot abide talk of jam butty mines and listening to Norwegian covers bands take on Beatles medleys.

Strictly professional

As a fundraising exercise for Alder Hey Hospital, International Scouse Day is highlighting the work of an outstanding children's hospital that has endured some difficult times recently.

Liver Birds
Pre-shellsuit Scouse fashion sense
But it is hard not to groan every time there is an opportunity for professional Scousers to come out of the woodwork.

Because of the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside, Liverpool is the city of "dey do doh, don't dey doh", "sound as a pound", and a place where you can buy books on how to Lern Yerself Scouse.

But we don't all speak like the cast of "Brooky", calling each other Tinhead and Growler, and we don't all think "civilisation ends at the Runcorn bridge".

Despite Liverpool's occasional insularity and reliance on the past, it has a buzz rarely matched by other cities.

Easy target

Much of the knocking that has created Liverpool's stereotypes emanates from the London-centric media.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw: Scousers "always up to something"
When newspapers need a feature on juvenile crime, poverty, drugs or the inefficient workings of the criminal justice system, the lazy journalist looks no further than Liverpool.

Never mind that crime figures in Liverpool, still riven by genuine deprivation and unemployment, are not that much different from London's.

Some people still see as fact the fictional city evoked in the 1980s sitcom Bread, a place of work-shy, dole-cheating chancers who love their mum.

And the negative portrayals keep coming, with the police fly-on-the-wall Mersey Blues giving us "meeeerder", another stick for anti-Scousers to beat us with.

Culture capital

To be fair, it is not just Liverpool. For the most part, the metropolitan media have a mental map of the UK that features London and a large area of northern wasteland marked "here be dragons".

Cast of Bread
Work-shy dole cheats? J'accuse the Bread sitcom
Never mind that Merseyside's capital is a strong contender for European city of culture.

Or that Liverpool's small population has produced the foremost pop band in pop history and a host of other cultural pioneers over the years.

The paintings of George Stubbs, the photography of E Chambre Hardman, poetry of Roger McGough and plays of Willy Russell show a city that has been a creative hub throughout the last 300 years.

The music of the Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen, the La's and Shack have bubbled under great shifts in alternative music in more recent years.

Big hospital

Liverpool, as a city of fewer than 500,000 people, has punched above its weight culturally, scientifically and in sport.

It has one of the largest hospitals in Europe, a renowned school of tropical medicine, England's most successful football team and enough theatres and art galleries to shake a stick at.

Despite the economic destruction wrought on it, and the decay of its spectacular architecture, Liverpool remains a magnificent and powerful city which is a party capital and a good place to walk around.

Liverpool is not the city of thieves, dole cheats, drug dealers, rioters and strikers.

So stop giving us a hard time.

And one more thing... Scousers really are funny.

Add your comments using the form below:

What about giving Londoners a break? Stereotyping us as narrow-minded media luvvies who never go outside the M25 is as infuriating as anything Liverpudlians have to put up with.
Ben, Britain

When people ask where I'm from, and I tell them, it's like I've painted a bulleye on my forehead for abuse.
James, Liverpool

Scousers are funny if you are laughing at them, not with them!
Paco, UK

I'd blame Harry Enfield.
Richard, UK

And guess what people say when I say I am an Essex girl.
K Holliman, UK

Spot on ! As an exiled ( and proud ) Liverpudlian living and working in Manchester, I am sick to death of the archetypal 'Scouse' jokes - in fact, I believe the word 'scouser' is now a synonymous with the 'scally' image. So much so, that I insist on being described properly as a Liverpudlian.
Eddie Harris, UK

Alternatively let's keep quiet about Liverpool and enjoy it for ourselves!
William Collier, UK

Calm Down, Calm down la! HA HA HA HA HA!
Chris, London

Well done, Finlo. A well reasoned and written article from a fellow scouser suffering the ignorance of the Sarf!
Alan, Scouse in Surrey

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21 Apr 99 | Politics
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