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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

English accent lends aura of authority

Gillings, who is English, says that not being a southerner did not hurt him as he tried to set up a successful business. In fact, his English accent seemed to convince people of his intelligence.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: One of the things that's interesting about this study is exploring the extent to which a regional distinctiveness is still evident in business. Were there times that it mattered, in your effort to put this company and develop this company here, that you were not a southerner? DG: Oh no. I would say almost the reverse. It's probably fair to say that my customers more came from New Jersey, but of course Glaxo and Burroughs-Wellcome -- at that time they were separate companies -- were local customers. Everyone always thought that we entirely developed because of those companies and that was not true. The genesis came out of New Jersey, and then we gained other customers later. JM: But you're selling a service, so place matters less, I guess. DG: In fact, I often found that my English accent was an advantage. For some reason it gets credited with intelligence. I don't know why. I get that sense in the United States, maybe. You can judge [for] yourself whether you think I'm correct, but for some reason when it's put side by side with a native American [accent], for some reason it sounds more intelligent. I'm not saying that with any degree of belief. I think it's nonsense. It's an advantage, which I think I've benefited from. Very unusual that a foreigner can actually benefit more than a native, or at least as much as native. I was always struck by that.