Language Change (2)

I heard my cousin Jonathan Bartley on the radio this morning, talking to Roger Scruton and Ed Stourton. I would never have recognised him from his voice (we hardly ever meet). i’ was a gruff es’uary grow(l) from which con’sonanns, glo”lls, n terminoo ells had been scraped off like barnacles. He lives in Swindon. His father, my uncle Christopher, really does live in South London, was partly brought up in Enniskillen, but speaks with the most old-fashioned rugger-playing doctor’s drawl. Why not? That’s what he was — a consultant in a London hospital. His voice is about half an octave higher than his son’s; his vowels go on for twice as long; he even has the old Oxford tick of saying “in-vole-vd” for “involved”. Meanwhile, Scruton, who really was brought up in a poor family, sounds just about like I do, which is to say like Christopher but at 45 rpm.

When I was at school, the great upper-middle class shift to Mockney was just beginning. I wouldn’t do it. If people were going to tease me about my voice, they could, so far as I was concerned, fucking well learn to lump it. But I can’t help wondering whether Jonathan’s shift of accent was accelerated by his profession. Like his mother, he is a professional Christian, now running a thinktank named Ekklesia. Did he feel an extra presure to talk unposh because of his parents? Or is it that evangelicals are more determined than most to track the zeitgeist?

This entry was posted in Blather. Bookmark the permalink.