Saturday, 26 February 2011

With an English Accent

The English always used to be obsessed with accents. They still are – they just pretend not to be.

“It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman… despise him.” George Bernard Shaw
People who aspire to speak well are, insofar as there any still left, the targets of satire. Andrew Martin, Guardian July 29, 2008 In the same week, poll results published by mobile technology company SpinVox showed that 73% of respondents didn’t like their accent and aspired to speak like the Queen.

Meanwhile, those who have been to public school are desperately trying to dumb down their accents. They were raised on “Received Pronunciation”, RP – the traditional language of the boss class. It’s supposed to open doors, but it can also make people bully you, because they think you live a life of pampered privilege and have somehow strayed into the wrong dimension.

Caroline Stow Crat and Samantha Upward speak RP, though Sam is trying to rub the sharp edges off her accent because she's afraid of people laughing at her. She struggles to say "old" with a short O. Eileen Weybridge speaks RP too, but if she’s from the north she rhymes one with on and worry with sorry. She rhymes the u in cushion and butcher with the southern u in fuss, unless she comes from Solihell and calls it a keshion. She says “eether” and “onvelope” and “room” with a long vowel, though oddly she says “toothpaste” and “broom” with a short one (the way the Stow Crats say groom). Eileen rhymes the first syllable of the noun “project” with “throw”. She says “cannot” for can’t (I simply cannot understand...). She doesn’t voice the th in with, pronounces the h in white and which, and says pezzimistic and crezzent. She calls midweek Weddensday.

Howard and Bryan call it “Shropsheer”, Harry and Gideon say “Shropshah”. Bryan says “Edinburra”, Harry and Gideon “Edimbra”. Howard says “commentairy”, Harry says “comment’ry”. Bryan says “inDUStrial estate”, Harry says “industrial esTATE”. Howard calls people styuppid with a short vowel, Mr DD says stoopid, Sharon says shchewpid. Jen says per-fect with equal stresses, Sam and Caro stress the first syllable. Jen says goose berry (like the bird), Sam calls it a guzberry and Caro a guzbri. Sam eats a samwidge, Jen a sand-witch, Sharon a sarney. The nuts Sam calls armonds, Jen calls all-monds. Gideon says litch-en, Howard calls it lyeken. Sam puts a statchoo in a nitch, Bryan markets neesh producks, Jen admires a statyoo and blows her nose on a tissyou. Howard rhymes Quark with walk and aquatic with exotic, and says athalete and parlyament.

How do you conjugate the place you keep your car? GARahzh, GARardzh, garAHZH, garridge.

The girl in the picture above is trying too hard. She's got a bottle of ready-made Buck's Fizz (orange juice and champagne), instead of making her own. And you don't drink it with dinner. She's also drinking tea with dinner, which is beans on toast. There's a lit candle, even though it's still daylight. The candle should be in the middle of the table. She's holding her knife and fork in her fists, pointing straight up. And she's wearing way too much clanking jewellery. (Of course, there's nothing really wrong with any of this, except perhaps for pointing your knife and fork at people and letting your jewellery fall in the soup.)

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