Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deceived Pronunciation

Not really Poetry, Poetics, or Portland, but Im intrigued with aristo Sam Cams down-class accent being pegged as Estuarial.

Estuary English was first identified as such in 1984. Am I alone in noticing a distinct under-40 accent thats taken root here? A sort of regionless softened Valley one, ventilated with actuallys, where most clauses swoop up into questions, and the vowels lodge high in the nose? So common that you dont even think of it as accent anymore, just assume when you hear it the speakers somewhere below middle age?

In England, they link EE to the eclipse of the old school tie by celebrity, and a desire to camouflage class but sound young-urban. What change does our new sound link to?


rodney k said...

If you guessed that the picture above is of Samantha Cameron's much-ballyhoo'd tattoo, you guessed right.

Ms Baroque said...

Hi there. Coming in late, I came here via a link on Facebook from (the indefatigable) Don Share... but OMG! You have hit on my bete noir!

Estuary English is indeed rather horrible, but everybody knows it is. It's part of the new classless culture [sic] in the media. It was generated outward, as a 'style' of speaking, from the media. It represents the meeting point of regional accents ("estuary" in this case means the Thames Estuary, i.e., those areas southeast of London - as opposed to the Home Counties, which are more posh) and everyone's desire to cover up how they really talk (pace Pygmalion...).

But what in the good God is happening in America??? Why do all young women seemingly talk in a nasal, infantile whine, with no projection, no presence, no gravitas in it? "Mad Men" is unwatchable. The women - well, some of the men, too, but all the women below age, say, 40 - talk like little children who should be sent to bed with no supper.

Period piece. Right. They've invested MILLIONS in furniture porn, set designs like 1962 spreads from Good Housekeeping, and clothes we'd rip off our grannies' backs to have. But it SOUNDS absolutely godawful. Doris Day didn't talk like that. Lucille Ball didn't talk like that. Mary Tyler Moore, the mother on Leave it to Beaver and Kim Novak all didn't talk like that.

When my daughter watches her "90210" or whatever it is, the voices carry like mosquito drones around the house.

It's pernicious. "Mad Men" in particular takes a very patronising stance towards the past - we are so feminist - and yet its women have the most disempowered (and very contemporary) voices I've ever heard.

My sister-in-law, my nieces, talk the same way.