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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum