Permit me my wrinkles

ANOTHER VIEW

Share
Related Topics
Well, I am all for it - clear and effective speech. I am not talking about the cut-glass stuff, the plum in the mouth, the haw-haw have a devil on horseback Claude. I mean people who know the words and use them correctly and can see how each sentence is going to finish before they start it. So when I read yesterday that Gillian Shephard desires all our children to leave school speaking clearly and effectively in standard English, my first thought was, "Good on yer!"

The thing that bothers me is the possibility that, by promoting only standard English, the other rich types of English usage are left to fossilise.

I know Mrs Shephard says she is not referring to regional accents, but I wonder how successfully the two matters can be separated. What is it, anyway, this standard English? What does it outlaw? While I think any damage inflicted on regional speech patterns by Shephard will be secondary to the blows already dealt it by a mobile population and a television in every living room, nevertheless regional dialects must be threatened further by the adoption of standard English. Does that matter? I believe it does.

Take one of my first boyfriends. He was a Geordie. For me, fresh from Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire, listening to him was like listening to a foreign language. I doubt that what he said to me was structured in standard English, but it was beautiful just the same.

Take my old uncle who lived in a little isolated village near Uffington. He never said he was going to the toilet. He said he was going up the dyke. Dyke. Natural watercourse. Ditch. The language takes you back and informs you what people did pre-privy. My mum never used to say she was going to have a look: she went to have a "kite round". It is from the wheeling bird of prey and is a centuries-old usage. In a Cornish village recently, a man was standing in his garden and I asked him where a friend of mine might live. The man looked up brightly. "Know ee, do ee?" he said. What happens to people who say: "Know ee, do ee?" Mrs Shephard?

Don't misunderstand me. I am not campaigning for regional accents to be preserved in aspic. I have had one for a lifetime and I am not sure I would wish it on a dog. Mention me and people shut one eye and shout, "Ooh ar!" I write comic verse. Well over two million books sold and my current one is in its fourteenth reprint. Yet I hardly ever see a reference to myself in the press without some put-down relating to my voice. Make way for the Bucolic Bard, the Rustic Rhymster, the Shakespeare of the Shires. It is irritating after 20 years. But, Mrs Shephard, despite all my years of fighting "voicism", I would not want all the wrinkles ironed out of our language. Me-dearie-o.

The author is a writer and entertainer. Her latest book is 'The Works', BBC Books, pounds 4.99.

React Now

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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The author with David Leppan, the co-founder of Wealth-X, in his BBC series  

What I learnt about inequality after spending time with some of the richest people in the world

Jacques Peretti
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would halt the charitable status enjoyed by private schools

Rosie Millard
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links