Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Rain in Spain

Via Vanishing American, I found this article, published in the New York Times in 1992: ON LANGUAGE; The Accent Gap.

For months, tabloid scribes and authors of gossipy best sellers have offered millions of readers lurid, even shocking stories of the rift between the Prince and Princess of Wales. Now a British linguist, John Honey, provides an unusual spin on that familiar subject. Differences in age, interests and tastes are one thing, but the real schism, Honey suggests, may be in how the two speak the English language. "There is a huge accent gap between Charles and Diana," says Honey, the author of the 1989 book "Does Accent Matter? The Pygmalion Factor."


The Charles-Di split, then, is a matter of two different styles of upper-class speech. Prince Charles speaks a marked version of R.P. -- the upper-crust English, oozing privilege, spoken today mainly by senior members of the royal family, old Etonians and aging Oxford and Cambridge dons. R.P. speakers pronounce "cloth" as clawth and talk about the lorst pah of the British Empah (the "lost power of the British Empire").

Princess Diana has swung to the other end of the R.P. spectrum, occasionally assuming a trendy down-market variant, including traces of popular London speech, that approaches cockney. Its most prominent feature is "t-glotalling," which means strangling the final "t" in most words. Expert ears, for example, have detected Diana saying there's a lo' of i' abou' for "there's a lot of it about."


VA also provided these two quotations:

Democracy does not exist for a long time - it wastes, exhausts and destroys itself. There was never a democracy that didn't kill itself" - Samuel Adams

"Democracy always leads to conflicts and instability, but never provides for the security of the citizens or their property. Usually it is very short at life, and very bloody at death" -- James Madison

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