This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Nuts and Bolts: Evolution or Revolution?

'The moment an Englishman opens his mouth,' says Professor Higgins in GB Shaw's Pygmalion, 'another Englishman despises him.'

But despises him for what? 

Well, for having been born on the wrong side of town, or for having gone to the wrong school, most probably (though wrong in this context might mean absolutely anything).

Still, Shaw was writing a long time ago, and things are different, now. Nowadays, every time an Englishman opens his mouth another Englishman despises him for something quite different. 

And what's that? Well, for being the wrong age, most probably.

The thing is that English pronunciation is changing fast. Estuary English, which just a couple of decades ago was predicted to take over the whole country, is now spoken only by rather old people.* Young fashionable people now speak MLE, or Multicultural London English, which is heavily influenced by Black and Asian speech - and where London leads the country follows.** 

Dr Dominic Watt of the University of York has been studying these accent changes. He expects words to carry on becoming simpler and shorter and easier for non-native speakers to say. He thinks thick will become fick and this will become dis, and cute will become coot

Will it really happen? Perhaps. But I note something else reported by Dr Watt, which is that the dropped h (as in 'ouse of 'orror) of Estuary English is becoming rarer.

I also note that there are a lot of very small people running about the streets of London, and I'm pretty sure the last thing they'll want to do when they start growing up is to speak like their currently oh-so-hip parents.

And how will the now-small people speak? 

Well, I have no idea; but if tweed can make a comeback then I refuse to despair even of the subjunctive.

Word To Use Today If You Are Grown Up: one that isn't slang will probably be safest.

*The really old folk speak cockney - well, apart from the Queen and high-budget film villains they do, anyway.

** Or so Londoners tell us.

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