The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0188 Friday, 25 January 2002
From: Sam Small <
Date: Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 20:31:08 -0000
Subject: 13.0149 Re: Accents English
Comment: Re: SHK 13.0149 Re: Accents English
As it seemed to be me that started the sub-thread on 'personal pride'
may I reiterate on what I originally said. I remarked that I was proud
that I did not have an RP accent. A throwaway comment that recalled
Professor Honey's conclusion to his book on accents that it was probably
the best course of action in the modern UK to adopt an RP accent because
you simply would do better. I have resisted this change, not because I
wanted to fail in English society, but because I am a little bloody
minded about it. I enjoy the odd silly person taking me for a country
airhead as I always wait the opportunity to prove them decidedly wrong.
The attributes listed by others on the list such as blackness, height
and sexuality are fixed and immutable physical characteristics, whereas
accent is eminently changeable. Like clothing, it is a conscious
statement about yourself, and where change is desirable, it usually
takes place. There are celebrated examples of accents changing for
professional reasons. Elizabeth Windsor (The Queen) spoke in the 60s
with a very silly royal accent. Now it is only mildly silly. Margaret
Thatcher not only moved her accent nearer RP but lowered the pitch of
her voice. Harold Wilson, Prime Minister in the 60s and 70s, had a near
RP accent in the 40s, but when it suited him in the 60s he came over all
"Yorkshire like". Mick Jagger spoke in faux RP tones in the foppish
60s then in the harder 80s reverted to his 'street-cred' London sounds.
Kenneth Williams and other actors radically changed their accents to
curry favour with the public distaste of urban pronunciation.
I am pleased, rather than proud, that I am white, heterosexual, six feet
tall and male as I consider them all advantages, in spite of what cynics
say. To re-link this thread with Shakespeare I would like to restate
that actors in Stratford, the Globe and elsewhere in England adopt the
BBC inspired RP accent because it is associated with an outmoded view
that the BBC is a League of Gentlemen best fitted to teach the poor
ignorant public about what is art and what is not. The RP accent is, of
course, based on the Southern English accent, or more accurately, the
London accent. To call it 'standard' English pronunciation is a gross
insult to English people in the North of England, East Anglia, the West
country and Shakespeare's own Midlands. I wish RP would RIP.
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