LETTER:Estuary English: it's what you say, not the way that you say it, that really matters

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The Independent Online
OH DEAR, she's at it again. Gillian Shephard's think-tank is launching another initiative to cleanse English of the glottal stop and other orally transmitted diseases ("Gotter stop them glottal stops, awight?", 18 June).

Does she not know that true Scousers, Brummies and Cockneys have no hope of winning "good English" competitions, and that friendly Dorset, Yorkshire and Highland folk, not to mention the polished verbal products of our best public schools, would come top of the class? Read "women" or "black people" for "Scousers" or "Cockneys" and you have a form of blatant discrimination that would be unthinkable even to the least politically correct among us. The truth is we harbour the most irrational and pernicious loathing (and misplaced admiration) for our fellow citizens because of their accents alone.

Sloppy speech may well reflect careless thought, and would certainly be out of place in court. But glottal stops or the nasal tones of Estuary do not constitute sloppy speech. Good speech is not just a "good" accent. Remember the "upper class twits" and "Tim Nice-but-Dim"? Good speech is found where it is needed. I have many a student, Estuarians and Glaswegians alike, who can eloquently express the most succinct ideas without compromising their native accent.

The Tory kind of good speech is not needed in the playground. Would you have 10-year-old Lee from Luton shouting, "Excuse me, Stephen, would you mind passing the ball, please?"

Paul Kerswill

Linguistic Science Department

University of Reading