Posh Prof tells young Tone to learn to speak proper
Sunday 19 October 1997
John Honey, formerly professor of English at Osaka University in Japan, indicted the Labour leader with a grave charge: that he had failed to guard his educated accent from the infiltration of Estuary English or "watered down Cockney".
The evidence was heard in silence, as the professor began to deconstruct the language of Tony Blair. His reading of I Corinthians 13 at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, had been "impressive" but he had let himself down in the eighth verse by carelessly dropping his 'd's.
"When I was a chil', I spoke as a chil', I though' as a chil'," read Prof Honey, in a passable impersonation. "Now I put away chil'ish things."
Further, in the Scottish devolution campaign Mr Blair had allowed his 'i's to be "lowered" to 'u's. "Conservatuve," said Prof Honey. People nodded. They had noticed, too.
Was this the effect of the County Durham constituency or the Premier's school Fettes College? His favourite teacher, Eric Anderson, who went on to become headmaster of Eton, or even his days at Oxford? No, these linguistic traits had come from Estuary English, which has "reached epidemic proportions, and it is now common to hear it among school teachers and university professors".
As Prof Honey railed against declining standards in British schools and the poor example set by public figures, his entire address began to resemble a Blair speech, with the Prime Minister at his most messianic. Some of the perpetrators of the academic fraud of anti-grammar were "in... this... very... building"(the London University Institute of Education).
He worried for his daughter born that very morning "weighing seven pounds and sure to cost pounds 7,000 in school fees". He made a call to arms against the "enemies of Standard English". He raised his hands, he alternatively glared and smiled paternalistically at his enthusiastic audience. "Please, Mr Blair ... Please ... Mr ... Blair," he said imploringly, "watch out!" He shook his head, sadly. "Or ... doesn't ... it ... matter?"
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