Tuesday 17 May 2022

Choose Your Words Carefully in Quotes 10

The way the Glaswegian writer speaks is largely down to his mother. She was a proud woman who insisted that he spoke the Queen’s English. “She thought regional accents would hold back your kids; that if you wanted to do well you had to talk like a BBC newscaster. So as a kid I just sounded a bit weirder than the kids around me.” 
(Guardian 2022-04-03, Douglas Stewart, author of Shuggy Bain)

When I joined the BBC in 1979, it was still very rare for a national newsreader to have a regional accent, and the first time I was interviewed for BBC Radio Stoke, the first question asked was “How can a person from Stoke on Trent (with heavy emphasis) get to be head of the BBC’s Pronunciation Unit?”... The British accents that regularly come bottom of the polls... are mostly those of industrial cities: Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow. Is the dislike caused by a perceived ugliness in the sound, or is it rather the fact that outsiders... still associate the Black Country, Merseyside, Glasgow and the East End of London with slums and ‘dark Satanic mills’? (Graham)

In the 1950s as my national (military) service was coming to an end, I needed an early release in order to start my first university term in time. I needed the Commanding Officer’s signature. He exploded into a raging fury I’ve never experienced elsewhere. “University? You can’t even speak English”. I grew up in Kent. My accent is still the same today... Like all emigrés I’m a fossil from the time I left, with 1950s slang and 1950s anything else. (Sidney Wood from Kent, who says he first heard RP from RAF officers. Fascinating discussion here.) 

An audience member quit a performance of a Shakespeare play in York because it featured Yorkshire accents, theatre staff have said. York Theatre Royal's staging of As You Like It prompted a complaint on Monday, with the theatregoer asking for a refund due to the accents being used. The Yorkshire-based company behind the show said its performances contained "unapologetic northern voices". "That's Yorkshire accents, right here in Yorkshire," the theatre's boss said. (BBC)

A while back, the CEO of a large company asked me to talk to her senior managers about the difference between marketing and marketing comms. I did a presentation for an hour, then a Q&A for half-an-hour. It seemed to go well, but afterwards, one of the senior managers took me aside. She said, “We love you Dave, but do you have to do the whole Cockney barrow-boy bit?” At first I couldn’t work out what she meant, then it clicked, she was talking about my accent. She wasn’t listening to what I said, she was listening to how I said it. And she assumed I must be putting it on for effect. (Davetrott.com)

Mum called into the living room from the kitchen in her best mock-posh. (Rob Chapman, All I Want Is Out of Here

I overheard a radio producer once saying that I had “a polytechnic accent”. (Suzanne Moore May 2022 This week academics are complaining about “accentism”.)

My wife has an RP accent; my great-uncle was pure Yorkshire. It's a good job that my father and I were present when they met, as neither of them could understand the other. (AW via Facebook. A few words rather than “complete incomprehension”? A taxi firm’s Scottish controller stumped me with “after mudnate”.)

My mother was a Yorkshire lass, working class and proud of it. But she dropped the accent, and only used it when we went to visit my grandparents. She learnt to use English with a very neutral accent and with all its consonants. (@meade_newman)

On my little island oilfield in Indonesia in the 1960s, the Field Superintendent (the most senior person there) was a Sumatran from a very high-class family. His voice was so soft that I could never manage to speak to him on the telephone because I never heard his replies so I always had to go to his office instead. (It was a pretty small outfit and that was no great hardship.) I was told that speaking softly was a sign of his high (family) status in that part of the country. (Teacup)

I work with someone like this. Promoted beyond her abilities because she speaks with a plum in her mouth. (via Twitter. That was me.)

Raised in Surrey, but lived in Hull for a while. Hull men might approach me, but would either back off or get almost aggressive once I opened my mouth. (@PenelopeClay10 Same here. She moved south again.)

Demos! Why can’t they say “demonstration” properly? I hate abbreviations. (Mrs Riseley-Porter in Agatha Christie’s Nemesis.)

A university is offering students what is believed to be the first module in chit-chat and networking. BPP University Law School has hired Georgie Nightingall, founder of Trigger Conversations, to help students have “good conversations” that “expand your perspectives and your relationships”. The university decided to launch the class after a poll found that 43% of its students feared they would be judged by the way they speak during their legal careers. (The Week. But surely social skills are so subtle and nuanced that they can’t possibly be put into words and we should all pick them up by osmosis, as I've been told?)

Barbara Windsor’s mother Rose had great ambitions for her, paying for elocution lessons in an attempt to lose her cockney accent and move her up the social ladder. Windsor later said her mother's family felt she had married beneath her... At the Aida Foster School in Golders Green, the teachers took their turn in trying to iron out her cockney accent but all failed. (BBC.co.uk. Shouldn’t that “lose” be something like “erase”? You can’t lose somebody else’s accent.)

More here, and links to the rest.

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