Just another way of speaking the same language

Share
Related Topics
I MET a woman on Tuesday who insisted on calling Michael Heseltine "Mr Heselteen" so that it rhymed with Ovaltine rather than Newcastle upon Tyne. Perhaps this was her logic, that the spelling suggested "teen", rather than "tine" that rhymes with "time". However, as I've so cleverly demonstrated with my "tine" "time" comparison, there is no logic to English spelling, and everybody knows that Heseltine is not Heselteen. Everybody, that is, except this woman, who repeated it at least four times for good measure, just so that we all got the picture. It was a funny conversation really, because none of the others present corrected her outright, but we did repeat the right pronunciation several times in the hope she'd get the message, which she didn't.

"What did you think of Mr Heselteen's attack on Lady Thatcher?"

"Oh, Michael Heseltine?"

"Yes, Mr Heselteen."

"Well, I suppose Major can't attack Thatcher outright, so he has to get one of his henchmen to do it for him, and Mr Heseltine is the most articulate."

"You think Heselteen's loyal to Major?"

"No one's more loyal than Heseltine."

"I think Heselteen has another agenda. If Major goes, who most wants to step into his shoes?"

"Heseltine?"

"Heselteen, precisely!"

It was a no-win situation. I find people like this quite sad really. She was an elderly lady, still very beautiful, but she seemed to find the world frightening. One sensed that she didn't hold herself in very high regard, and thought that pronouncing the occasional word incorrectly would make her seem more interesting.

I know another person like this, who insists on saying St John's Wood as one would say St John Stevas. Whenever he feels left out of the conversation, you can see him looking tense and nervous, and then he'll suddenly come out with some made-up story about something happening in "Singen's Wood". Then he looks happy again for a bit. Strange really.

IT IS, of course, the beginning of the season of silly pronunciations, as people begin to tell each other which obscure French or Tuscan village they are renting a villa in for their summer holiday. The trick is to announce that you are going on holiday in your perfect English accent, and then suddenly drop in the name of the village in a perfect French or Italian accent, and then suddenly, and there must not be a moment's hesitation, you go back to perfect English to complete the sentence. So "we're renting a place in St Marie de la Mer for two weeks, what what?" becomes "We're renting a place in Saa Machrie doo lah Meechr for two weeks, what what?" I am always tempted to say: "Really, are you going via the Channel Tunnel from Laandan to Pachrie? Myself I'm off to Noo York."

TONY Blair says he doesn't want to tax the rich more, which is good news for me, as I'm quite rich, although it's all new money so it doesn't really count. As Alan Clark would say, I'm the sort of chap who has to buy his furniture. It's difficult to know whether taxing the rich more is a good idea.

Evidence suggests that when the rate for the highest earners was lowered from 60 per cent to 40 per cent the Inland Revenue collected more from that bracket in real terms than it had done previously, presumably because rich people have brought their money home. But world circumstances are different now. Whereas in the good old days when Labour put taxes up us nouveaux riches would scarper abroad nowadays our traditional hideaways aren't so attractive.

Australia won't have us unless we're skilled carpenters, Spain isn't the nice cheap Fascist dictatorship it used to be and South Africa has gone the way of the rest of the Dark Continent. Not that we liked apartheid, of course, but you get the picture. Even the US is no longer as attractive, what with the latest crime statistics showing that over 90 per cent of all Americans are murdered with firearms at least twice a year.

So it looks like we may have to stay put. But what Labour needs to understand is that the rich, once rich, just get richer, even if they do no work at all. This is because they have good accountants, and even the mention of tax rises makes these accountants shovel rich people's money into Swiss bank accounts faster than you can say "only a 5 per cent rise for those on over pounds 200,000 a year". So Tony Blair is probably right. It's a pity we can't have progressive indirect taxes, though, like 40 per cent VAT on posh cars and second homes and Georgio Armani suits and polo ponies. This seems like a good idea to me, but it probably isn't, otherwise someone would have thought of it before.

A BRILLIANT thing happened the other day. I was in a cafe trawling the papers in a desperate attempt to get ideas for this column and overheard two brainy types talking about the war that split Pakistan: "Well the ideas of the, er, first president of Bangladesh, um, what was his name?" said one. The other shrugged. I lowered my paper. "Sheikh Mujib Ali Rachman," I blurted nonchalantly. "Gosh! Thank you," said the surprised brainbox. I gave him a very cool slight smile and returned to my paper. I only know this stunning piece of information because I was a schoolboy of nine at the time of Bangladesh's independence, and for some reason a teacher told us the name of the president, and for some other reason that only schoolboys will understand, we found the name rather appealing, and would whiz around the playground being harrier jump jets shouting: "Sheikh Mujib Ali Rachman! Dvv! Dvv! Dvv!" as we shot each other. Mine was not an unusual school in this way. There is a Scottish pop group called Del Amitri, which a friend of mine is a member of. He tells me that the name comes from the group's lead singer and his chums whizzing around their school playground being hawker hunters, yelling: "Del Amitri, Del Amitri! Dvv! Dvv! Dvv!" Boys are strange things.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Peter Mandelson first resigned from the cabinet on 23 December 1998  

2015's dim-sum index has too many courses

John Rentoul
 

I'm just as merry without a drink, thank you

Fiona Sturges
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015