Friday, November 16, 2012


Received Pronunciation

Kate Middleton is posher than Wills, Wills is posher than Posh, Posh is posher than Becks, Becks is posher than...well, than people who say "fooot" instead of "fut." Or "oweld" instead of "eweld." Obviously.

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When I worked in London, there were two people in my (smallish - 20 people) office with super-posh accents, so we used to make them do all of the voice recordings for the main phone line.

Also, is it totally snarky to say that Kate's accent is probably more "posh" because I'll bet you her parents made her practice it as a child?

Also, based on the pronunciation key at the bottom...it sounds like the new version is sounding a bit more...American? (like, the switch from "matchewer" to "matchoor")


@Ophelia Nothing beats "mah-toor."


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Also, I was trying to read the pronunciation guide out loud, and I just sounded like an old lady on an episode of Fawlty Towers.


@Ophelia I think that English accents are becoming a little more "American" in general.

When I worked in Oxford, I had a co-worker who was from Kent (read: very distinct accent). Another co-worker (Oxford native) asked if he was from Oxford. "Do I sound like I'm from Oxford??" he asked, incredulously. "I don't know!" she said.

"Emma," I said, "I'm American and even I know he's not from Oxford."


@meetapossum Totally agree - the difference in accents between, say, York and London are REALLY distinct, which I find fascinating, because it's only, what, 200 miles or so? (Then again, look at how much accents change in the US from urban to rural areas. Accents are fascinating!)


@Ophelia Or even a few miles apart! Even as big as America is, I don't think we have the insane amount of regional accents as Britain. It's crazy!


@Ophelia I experienced the opposite in England -- apparently call "centres" would intentionally hire people with quaint, homey regional accents and I'd always end up with some unintelligible Geordie mumbling nonsense at me.


@meetapossum Actually the US does have a lot of very regionally specific accents, especially on the east coast and throughout the South. But because people move around so much only 10-15% of people in each region actually have any features of the accent.


@stuffisthings That's pretty interesting (the rough percentage). I've just always been amazed by the sheer number of different accents in Britain in such a small area.

Whenever I answered the phone at work, people were very confused to hear an American accent.


@meetapossum (I should point out that I made up that percentage, but I remember a linguist friend telling me this basic fact and it stuck with me!)


@stuffisthings People in the UK (usually Daily Mail twats) always moan about companies having call centres in India and not being able to understand the accents. I have my electric with Scottish Power, who make big play out of having domestic call centres, and I can't understand a strong Glaswegian accent to save my life. Indian any day of the week for me.


@meetapossum My theory is that accents in Britain had a lot longer to develop in (relative) isolation. Then all those accents moved to America, got mixed up, and had only a few hundred years of evolving separately in far-flung regional areas before telephones and the railroad got all the accents mixed together again.


it is superduper cute@n


I'm not convinced anyone really says "heeh-er" for "hair".


Telegraph, your renderings of pronunciations are ridiculous. Use the IPA!

(And oh, British class. Trying to work out how posh someone is is so complicated!)

Count Chocula

@Verity Yes IPA!


@Verity IPA. Mmmm, Bee-er.


And the prize for Most Socially Debilitating Class Consciousness, 2012 goes to....*drumroll*... Britain!!! Better luck next year, Guyana. A round of applause for our winners please, but be careful that you don't rise above your station by how you hold your elbows!


"Fooot" oh my god I have the giggles at work, stop it.


I am sitting here whispering to myself in my office. Good thing I closed the door.


@frigwiggin Practicing the different pronunciations in the article, I mean. Not just...whispering.


Now I wonder if the younger royals make fun of each others' varying degrees of old school poshness. Like get drunk and have a contest to see who sounds the most "South London Tennis Club."

Probably not.


I would, if it were me.


A glaring omission in this article is the middle-class phenomenon of 'the phone voice'. My mum's originally a Brummie, on the phone she sounds like the Queen circa 1955. I have a slightly West Country accent, but when I worked in a call centre people from abroad frequently used to discuss whether or not I was 'a machine voice' before hanging up.


@questingbeast My parents have Phone Voices too. Not quite Queen-like, but noticeably different to their normal ones.

tea sonata

The rain in spain affects our vocal chords, who knew?! Ah, Wills, you'll always be a posh knob to me. And I mean that lovingly.


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