Sunday, 11 October 2009

Sunday night is... Elocution (The last glottal stop on the line)

Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde White (dansant), (Julie Andrews chantant), in which the Irish Socialist George Bernard Shaw stands up for upper class English vowels. Pygmalion, alias here, My Fair Lady.

I wish this clip had the lovely Hepburn doing her Dick-van-Dyke Cockerney. Here in Norfolk where, notionally at least, we speak like this, I was given a ride by a cabbie last week whose voice had a touch of Devon or Somerset in it, or so I thought, but he was pure Norfolk. He could understand the confusion, he said, the difference being that Devon people spoke slowly and Norfolk people spoke fast. Well, fast is as fast does, and the Norfolk vowel is more country route than direct line to my ear, but he'd probably know better. Compared to Norfolk, Glasgow Scots has no vowels at all.

The same week though, everywhere I went in Norwich, I kept hearing London overspill, the full Estuary, especially among the young and I wondered whether this was genuine overspill or an affectation picked up from telly. The last glottal stop on the Liverpool Street line, I thought. True Eastenders. It's the new elocution: Norfolk to Walworth. And - not so rare after all - Higgins and Pickering and Julie Andrews learning from Eliza. Sheer street cred. For a while only, of course, before reverting.

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