Monday 1 February 2021

Choose Your Words Carefully: 9 (in Quotes)

People like to say that class is no more, and regional dialects have disappeared.

My husband and I have raised our kids to be pretty precise about grammar, because both of us grew up in poverty, and our studies helped us become much more financially stable as adults than we ever were as children. We especially stress the difference between good and well, number and amount, I and me, etc. ( Presumably they don’t like: “How’s X?” “Oh, he’s doing good.” These are clearly class markers.)

We weren’t allowed to say “shut up”, “what?” or “yeah” (always “pardon” and “yes”), or to shout to each other from another room. (Via Twitter)

We used to house-sit in the 70s for a classical pianist, and my mother’s voice went up several levels of gentility whenever she answered their phone.
(Via Twitter)

My mum and grandma used to put on a sort of Hyacinth Bucket telephone voice.

My first wife's mother – at home, Looe variety Cornish accepted. Speaking to anyone she considered 'posh', she tried to speak posh herself – still Cornish but a bit higher pitch.

My wife speaks with great circumspection—'proper pride,' she calls it—to our neighbour the tradesman's lady.
(WM Thackeray, The Book of Snobs)

I watched and listened to Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday. He may be an arrogant anachronism, but you have to admire his eloquence and command of the English language. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. It is a pity that more do not talk like him. (Via Facebook)

The expression 'y'all' is among the most revolting, cursed things I've ever heard. Why are Americans so relentlessly, unwaveringly vulgar? (@CapelLofft)

'Y'all' is horrible, but I feel just as irritated when British people say "We were sat..." instead of "We were sitting." (@Lord_Steerforth)

When I lived in England, my mother used to tell me that I needed to put my Tennessee accent back on when I was coming home for a visit... When I left Oak Ridge, I started developing a distinctly Southern accent. My dear mother equated Southern regional accents with lack of class and education. She really was quite the social climber. She was raised in poverty, in rural Texas, and wanted better for her children. (MKI)

I was hoping changing your accent had been dumped. When I was a very young woman I was turned down for a job because I 'didn't speak well enough'. I think it was one of the first times I'd encountered snobbery. Never forgotten it – never lost my accent! (@Kibalchich1)

The requirement for ‘a pleasant speaking voice’ ensured that only higher-class girls with flawless Received Pronunciation would apply. (Sarah Shaw, Short Skirts and Shorthand. It was sometimes called “a good telephone manner”.)

Dear Dr Katie Edwards
Subject: Yorkshire dialect
I’ve just listened to your programme on Radio 4. My feedback is that I was sure the BBC wouldn’t impose their diversity agenda on the listener. You’ve been chosen because of the way you speak and you’ve obviously done well for yourself despite your evidently difficult background. Good for you! While you have my admiration for making something of yourself, I want to hear a presenter who speaks correctly. From time to time we are treated to a broadcaster with a ridiculous sounding regional accent and if the rest of the listeners are anything like me, then it’s an unwelcome addition to the programming. I’m astonished that you continue to speak with such a strong accent and use dialect, after Genesis 11, 1-9. Congratulations on your (I’m sure very many) achievements but you do not belong on Radio 4. (The Biblical reference is to the Tower of Babel.)

Kimberley Chambers appeared on BBC Breakfast in 2019 to plug her new thriller, The Sting. Twitter responded: Who on earth was that Cockney women on BBC Breakfast this morning. Couldn't bear to listen to her, had to turn the TV off! Poor Charlie and Naga. (@darryljb75) This book will be interesting reading if written the same as she speaks. (@mazarati33) Oh look, a plastic Cockney. (@marti6118) Can we please have subtitles from the BBC with regard to this Cockney? It’s like hearing the entire cast of Eastenders on steroids! (@IanBrownuk)

(And then the BBC broadcasts a radio programme claiming that the Cockney accent has disappeared. I'm sure the two incidents are not related.)

I really like Jess Phillips but I genuinely think (and I say this as a proud West Midlander) that her Brummie accent will put people off. The prejudice against certain accents is horrendous. (Via FB.)

In 2020, The Guardian ran a piece on students having their accents mocked at university:

It sounds ridiculous, but I only realised I had what people regarded as a strong regional accent when I first began my undergraduate studies. Mocking of my accent was immediate.

A constant barrage of abuse from students and staff who were verbally disapproving of my mild but noticeable Black Country accent... Staff on more than one occasion said ‘we don’t normally get your type here’ or ‘perhaps you could try and fit in’... “I am gay and if anyone makes homophobic remarks towards me it is considered illegal, but if someone is classist I can’t say anything because it is not a protected characteristic – yet it is still abuse.”

“‘You’ll never get anywhere talking like that, it makes you sound stupid. You need to try and flatten your Yorkshire accent.’ That was a member of staff in my third year of university.
[She was told:] When you use “like” in sentences, you sound like a teenager. My accent completely changed during my four years at university, flattening back immediately when I was welcomed home.

One girl from Tyneside went to Durham – but was the only student there with a northern accent.

Since moving down south a month ago I can think of at least 10 occasions when my accent, being a relatively strong one from Birmingham, has been brought up and mocked in conversation.”
(She was told she ought speak more “eloquently”.)

I’ve had people make assumptions about my intelligence, family background and financial situation based on nothing but the way I speak.

Horticultural snobs frequently correct other people’s Latin pronunciation as a weird power move.
(James Wong) He says he was turned down by a newspaper for not being “British” enough. They wanted someone “less international”. Someone responded: You have THE most British of accents and talk more posh (sorry that sounds snobby) than most people I know.

I don’t sound the same as the rest of my family and it often makes me feel sad. But also makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. Like, over time I’ve subconsciously lost the ‘heavy’ parts of my Chester accent. (@RebeccaRideal)

I'm Scouse. How do you think I'm treated? 1. We are only 'acceptable' if we are famous. Otherwise, the only way I'm welcome at a table is if I'm holding a tray. 2. People think its OK to do our accent back to us, repeating what we have just said. 3. People think it's OK to do stereotypical jokes. 4. The look of surprise when someone with a Liverpudlian accent and a boxer's nose can talk about Byzantine icons and Constructivism. (@ChrisFarrelly)

My mum was always telling me off for sounding ‘Too Cardiff’. She was Cardiff born and bred. (@villi63)

I had a fairly standard Cheshire accent when I started uni darn sarf, and somehow managed to collect an entire circle of friends who were from the Midlands or North. And we did get mocked for our accents by the posh southerners! (@ThorhallaBjorg)

Several people from Dublin have pointed out that Moriarty does have a Dublin accent but it is an exaggerated middle-class south Dublin accent. It is locally known as the “D4 accent” after a postcode in south Dublin... Where I grew up anyone who didn’t have a regional accent was “posh”. After coming to University in the South, I have realised that BBC pronunciation is not considered “posh” but “standard”. Posh was defined as the rather over-exaggerated accent people often use to pantomime the rich. (Blogger welllingtongoose,

I've taught in Essex, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Cornwall. Children are dead proud of their accents and their dialect words. But they also know they have to "posh" themselves up if they want to get on. So sad. (@owen_jermy)

My family always said I spoke posher than them but going to university I realised I really didn’t speak posh. (Via Twitter)

I thought I’d poshed up my accent when I went to Cambridge. But then I joined the FT, and I realised that I really hadn’t. (Beth Rigby, political editor at Sky News)

I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement. (Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill)

I'm lucky enough to have a pretty soft Yorkshire accent and still get some judgement. My wife, whose accent is much stronger, is more readily written off at times and it's annoying. (@DrRichFG)

I was born and raised on benefits and from a housing estate. I was told by my PhD supervisor to "speak properly" just before presenting at my first international conference. Years later I'm so glad I've never lost my thick Derry accent! (@KitanaValentine)

One of those strange 1960s pop English voices that you don’t hear any more, like the guy out of the Monkees, or Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday. (Hugo Rifkind, Times 2020. Davy Jones of the Monkees came from Manchester, but when he moved to the States he was given an American’s idea of Cockney. Judy Carne from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and Geraldine Chaplin in Nashville also adopted the accent.)

“The industry is still hugely dominated by class,” says actor James McArdle. He said he heard complaints in the industry about difficulty in understanding Scottish accents “all the time”. ( A reviewer recently talked about “whining Scottish accents”.)

Scots face insidious racism in the West End. (Alan Cumming)

Class is profitably marketed online by creepy coaching companies offering “diction, charm and social grace”. (Libby Purves in the Times)

But is it really such an advantage to talk like Jacob Rees-Mogg?

Radio 4 – I hate that poetry-reading middle-class voice they put on.

People assuming I grew up rich with upper-class parents because I know some long words and occasionally sound close to articulate in videos is a form of classism. That’s my TED talk. (@shaun_vids)

I feel for you, Shaun. And someone else adds that RP "just simpers".

More here, and links to the rest.