Saturday 14 May 2016

Choose Your Words Carefully 5

Lindsey Chapman

Today at Hull Journalism Day a student asked if she needed to change her accent to get on. No, no, no, no, no! (

Trainee teachers with northern accents are being pressured to speak "the Queen's English" in southern classrooms. According to a new study, accents most associated with the Home Counties are favoured by the teacher training profession... Experts say teachers with northern accents are discriminated against in a profession that would not tolerate prejudice based on race and religion. They dubbed it the "last form of acceptable prejudice" in our society.
(Sun May 2016)

At Bar school “I felt unwelcome from the get-go because of my accent. I sound northern.... but that was constantly pointed out in conversation, particularly when I was first introduced to someone. Anywhere past Watford Junction is apparently northern... Then people automatically think you are from a working-class background.” (Charlotte Proudman)

Clare Foges reveals in The Times that employers filter applicants on accents. Bring back elocution lessons! If you have a marked regional or Cockney accent it probably makes sense to damp it down a bit, but don’t imagine that the posher, the better. (She warns against copying Brian Sewell.) A strongly marked “posh” accent can also lose you the job. Whatever anyone tells you, it’s best to blend in and be as neutral as possible. “Earlier this year the Social Mobility Commission found that law and accountancy firms were applying a ‘poshness test’ to job applicants, which favoured middle class mannerisms and accents... When recruiters talk about the need for ‘polished’ candidates they mean not just the dry-cleaned M&S suit but the way they speak... It is time to revive the tweedy old concept of elocution.” (2015-10-27. And how can elocution be “tweedy”?)

One employer spoke of the importance of “holidays that you’ve been on, places you’ve visited”. Another employer said: “Accents make a difference, the things people talk about.” “Elite firms define ‘talent’ according to a number of factors, such as drive, resilience, strong communication skills and above all confidence and ‘polish’, which participants in the research acknowledged can be mapped on to middle-class status and socialisation.” Times, June 2015

This is great! All I have to do is affect a slightly plummier accent than my own and people will give me free stuff! (in America) (@AlexPaknadel)

This hotel I'm staying at is too posh for me. I just hope I can maintain my cover long enough before they realise I'm not One Of Them. What are the signs? Everyone is pronouncing their Ts. (Twitter exchange)

Howard Weybridge pens his memoirs, which he hopes a publisher will peruse. It will be quite a weighty tome! Bryan Teale puts up a sign in the foyer warning visitors not to consume beverages on the premises. Samantha Upward shudders at lunch when Jen Teale talks about sides, mains and Yorkshires and asks for a toasted sandwich instead of a sani or toastie. Only Weybridges and Teales say “prior to” for “before”. And Howard still uses a “fount pen” and says things are "well-nigh impossible". Jen aks “Is this an opportune moment?”

Modern genteelisms, according to the Lady magazine: cleaner (daily), posh (smart), nana (granny), expecting (pregnant) and passed (dead). (2016)

The fogeys who hang on to kyeneemar for cinema also use “superpose” for “superimpose”.

Someone on the radio just said "dr-arse-tically" without actually being the Queen.
(Mr Clungetrumpet ‏@StiffPigeon)

A teacher on Radio 4 talked about “skaws, cricklum, ashoom” when she meant “schools, curriculum, assume”. Or, as Samantha would say, “skooooools, kew-rick-you-lum, ass-yewm”.

When they quit work, Stow-Crats call it "retahment"; Upwards: retyerment; Teales and Weybridges: retyement.

Upwards eat samwiches or samwidges; Teales and Weybridges munch sand-witches.

Upwards call the nuts “ahmonds”, Teales and Weybridges call them “allmonds”. Spaniards call them “almendros”. Where did “ahmond” come from?

Weybridges have trouble with words like Tata and Lady Gaga (Tar-tar Steel), though they can probably say “mama” without thinking. (Likewise they have no trouble with Loch Ness, but claim there is a composer called “Bark”.)

Caro Stow Crat calls the upmarket jeweller Asprey “Aspry” (and the bird of prey an ospry); Eileen and Jen call it “Ass-pray’s” and would love to spot an “oss-pray” through binoculars.

Caro’s mother still calls the country OR-stria. Caro calls it a “plahstic” tablecloth (so practical), but Jen and manufacturers call them PVC or vinyl tablecloths. “Plastic” sounds so tacky.

Jen and Sharon prefer short vowels (rhyming sloth with cloth etc), and never quite grasped the rule that only a doubled consonant makes a short vowel – they just put them in everywhere. Sam is trying to train herself to do the same. She doesn’t want to drawl like Caro. But it is terribly Teale/Weybridge to talk about “larther” instead of “lather” with a short A. Upwards avoid the word altogether – and even the thing. They don’t like soap that lathers, it makes washing too easy and enjoyable. (Did people ever “garther” in the church hall in real life?) And it’s Jen and Eileen who bake batches of scones to rhyme with “owns” rather than “dons”.

Sam cringes when Jen says “lenth” for “length”, and Eileen wails when people drop the Gs off gerunds (goin’ and comin’).

Matthew Parris thinks we should say Herford for Hertford and Cuventry for Coventry. He says his lower-middle-class grandparents insisted on it, but these pronunciations would have been old-fashioned in his grandparents’ day. I don’t think anyone calls Lamb’s Conduit street “Lamb’s Cundit Street” any more, either. And De Beauvoir Town is usually said the French way, not as “De Beaver”. (I’ve never heard anyone say Cuventry.)

Very posh people are arch – this does not translate, in fact it probably comes across as camp.

“...with nervous whimsicality... She said, smiling coyly, ‘I’m afraid I am the bearer of ill tidings.” (Graham Greene's Ministry of Fear)

In the 30s, a certain kind of Upward girl used to talk in old-fashioned clich├ęs, with great emphasis. She couldn’t say “I cut my finger and it bled really badly” she had to say “I was simply STEEPED in GORE!” Ngaio Marsh sends up this kind of girl in Colour Scheme (she’s always saying things like “WELCOME to the HUMBLE ABODE” or “I was living in a HOLLOW MOCKERY”, until an admirer tells her off), and there’s one in Patrick Hamilton’s Rope (“Oh, are you a Frinton expert?”). If any Upward women still do this (they wrote like this until quite recently), Weybridges and Teales are baffled. Modern readers are also mystified when they come across this style in old books – think it is “twee” or “bright”. The poor girls had probably been told to be original.

More here, and links to the rest.

1 comment:

  1. Such a minefield! When I went to university I was surrounded by people from very different circumstances, who were as amused by the way I talked as I was by the way they did. They used to ask me to say 'bath' and 'castle' with my flat Northern a's. I took this in good part, believing with Eleanor Roosevelt that people can only make you feel inferior with your permission. Which I withheld.