Miscellany: Puzzlemaster

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The Independent Culture
BERYL BAINBRIDGE'S mini-outburst this week raised some eyebrows but few questions. Children, says the novelist, should have elocution lessons, and regional accents be eradicated.

It is un-PC to say that one finds one accent uglier than another: such feelings are felt to be invalid. People are put off by strong accents other than their own. We don't notice our own accents, of course. In the deep sea the fish do not see the water. But that's what regional accents are "for": to separate in-groups from out-groups; to attract and repel.

But just because I am in favour of a regional accent doesn't mean I want it in all contexts. Though an avid fan of Taggart, I do not want the national news to be in Glaswegian; any more than others would want it in my father's (lovely) Polish accent.

Unfortunately there is no alternative to the disparate media babble of mixed and modified accents: the natural candidate for such a role, received English, is disqualified for reasons of class. There is already uniformity in the written language. We write house whether we read it as hice or ha-ouse.

A consistent regional patois with its own grammar is one thing; sloppiness another. But language is one of the most democratic and rudderless of institutions. Grumble all you wish at Sco'land, Ga'wick or "Northern Island" , the tide cannot be turned back. Pronounce Sco'land with a "t" and you are dated just as surely as if you'd been named Elspeth or Archibald.

Language change cannot be stopped, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be moderated. Listen to the sloppy inarticulacies of children's programming, or the news. This is not regionality but language blindness. No wonder education is such a struggle.

Answer to last week's Puzzles

1. FOLKLORE

2. NORMALITY

3. Each domino must cover a black square and a white square. But there are more white squares than black. So it is impossible. First out of the electronic hat was David Hodgkiss in Germany.

POINTS TO PONDER

Uncle Tadek goes from Tomsk to Omsk visiting each other town exactly once. Show that if the high road (BG) is not passable, it is not possible. Even if he visits towns more than once he must go through an even number of them. Unless he goes along BP

Answers next week

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