The Rhyming Cockney Accent of Britain

By Swathika.


Cockney, originally used as a pejorative term for all city-dwellers, is now used to refer to all the working-class people in London’s East End. It traditionally refers to the accent of English spoken by the working-class population of London, and it became known as Estuary English. Some of the common features of this accent are the glottal stop, substituting a /w/ for /l/, dropping the /h/ for the /a/ in words, and the rhyming slang.

However, studies have now shown that in London’s East End some traditional features of cockney have been displaced by a Jamaican Creole-influenced variety popular among young Londoners known as ‘Jafaican’, also referred to as Multi-Cultural London English.  But features of the cockney such as the double negatives, rhyming slang, and the glottal stop are still in use. Other features of cockney also include: the raised vowel in words like ‘trap’ and ‘cat’ so these sound like ‘trep’ and ‘cet’; non-rhoticity, meaning the ‘r’ at the end of words isn’t pronounced; trap-bath split, meaning that certain ‘a’ words like ‘bath’, ‘can’t’, ‘dance’, are pronounced with the broad-a in ‘father’; and th-fronting.

These videos from the British TV show “Mind Your Language” provide some examples of cockney rhyming slang.

This is a cockney slang speech example:

Advertisements

Norman Fairclough on the Rhetorical Style of Tony Blair

By Swathika.


The book New Labour, New Language by Norman Fairclough talks about how political leaders present themselves, and how the language used by a politician is different from that used by an ordinary man. And as you go on to read the book, you will also find that the power and position of a person, the occupation, age etc. influences the kind of language used by that person. One important part of this book is about how Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, creates a character he wishes to present using his unique style of language, that is different from that of most other politicians and specific to him. Norman Fairclough tells us that Tony Blair presents himself as a ‘normal person’ as well as a ‘political leader’ via the rhetorical style he employs in his speeches. The main examples quoted in the book are as follows:


If you want to read the whole speech then click on this link: Tony Blair 1997 Labour Party speech. Here is a short clip:


In 1997 after the Labour Party had came to power, the newly-elected Labour PM Tony Blair summarized his objectives at the first Labour Conference in Brighton: (the conference’s slogan was “new Labour, new Britain”)

Today I want to set out an ambitious course for this country: to be nothing less than the model 21st century nation, a beacon to the world.

Norman Fairclough goes on to tell the readers that ‘Blair’s rhetorical style is not purely a matter of language. It is a matter of his total bodily performance, of which what he says is just a part. It is a matter of how he sounds, how he looks, the shifting expressions on his face, the way he moves his head and other parts of his body.’ So it’s not just the kind of words that Tony Blair uses in his speech. His body language also contributes to his political identity.

As you turn the pages, you will also see that Fairclough has talked about how Blair uses everyday English in his political speeches, presenting himself as a ‘normal person’, like any other person in the audience/public. In fact, Fairclough says that Blair himself wrote:

I feel like a perfectly normal person. I look at politicians who are older than me and I wonder when was the last time they had their own thoughts to themselves in their own way without feeling they had to programme their thoughts to get across a message … I don’t feel much like a politician.

Moreover, Tony Blair’s speech on the death of Princess Diana in 1997 is also a good example, showing how he reflects himself to be a ‘normal person’. In the speech, he says:

I feel like everyone else in the country today—utterly devastated. Our thoughts and prayers are with Princess Diana’s family—in particular her two sons, two boys—our hearts go out to them. We are today a nation, in Britain, in a state of shock, in mourning, in grief that is so deeply painful for us.

As Fairclough has written in his book, “Tony Blair combines an everyday emotional language (‘utterly devastated’, ‘in the state of shock’) with formal ceremonial expressions of regret (‘we are today a nation in mourning’) in a way which brings his emotional reaction as a ‘normal person’ (as he puts it, ‘like everyone else’) into his official task as Prime Minister”.

The following is an extract from a Guardian article, “Blair’s Rhetorical Style“:

This is the conventional sort of language that leaders use to speak on behalf of the nation on such occasions. Blair uses the first person plural (‘we’), and predictable, pre-constructed expressions (cliches)—’thoughts and prayers’, ‘our hearts go out to them’, ‘a nation in mourning’ (once you hear ‘our hearts’ for instance on this sort of occasion, you can predict ‘go out’). But threaded into this conventional public language is a more personal language (Blair begins speaking for himself, in the first person singular, and about his own feelings) and a more vernacular language. It is as if Blair (with his advisers—the speech has been attributed to Alistair Campbell) had started with the official form of words, then personalised and informalised it. He uses a vernacular language of affect as well as a public one—’utterly devastated’, ‘in a state of shock’. Notice also the way he re-words ‘her two sons’ as ‘two boys’, which again is a shift between a more formal way of referring to them in terms of their relationship to Diana and a more intimate, family way. Blair says he feels ‘like everyone else’—he is not only speaking formally for ‘the nation’, he is also speaking informally for ordinary people; and part of the power of his style is his ability to combine formality and informality, ceremony and feeling, publicness and privateness.

Finally, Fairclough also says that Blair uses vernacular expressions like “quit whilst I’m ahead” as a way of claiming his ‘normalness’, although the usage of ‘whilst’ rather than ‘while’ makes him sound more middle-class and ‘whilst’ is now considered to be archaic. And he also writes that Blair uses several conversational features such as repetition, incomplete utterances, fillers etc. suggesting that he is responding in a thoughtful way rather than reeling off prepared answers, which most politicians are expected to do.

Thus, politics has a very different and unique connection with the English language, and the language used by politicians is intertwined and linked with several other factors, reflecting the identity of the person. People should understand this interconnection and must not be just blinded with the sophisticated lexis used.

The Song That Led to Creation

By Swathika.


It is this song, “The Kill” by 30 Seconds to Mars that created a love for rock music in me. It was the first song by 30STM that I listened to, and it instilled not only a new love for rock music and the band in me, but also led to the thought of starting a new band of my own.

Yes, the idea of starting a band dawned on me then! And that was how Change The Formula was started by us, thanks to my band mate and my dear friend Sanjana, who was the first one to tell me about this song: it all started with her. “The Kill” still remains one of my favourite songs and one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. I dedicate this short piece of writing to Sanjana and of course, Jared Leto, the lead singer of this mind-blowing rock band. Thank you all!

The Iron Lady and her changing voice

By Swathika.


Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, who is well-known as the “Iron Lady”, is also known for changing her voice throughout her service as the Prime Minister of Britain. She was coached to lower her pitch to sound more masculine. This was used by the media to write articles about her varying voices with headlines like “From ‘Shrill’ Housewife to Downing Street”her voice was described as powerful and persuasive, soft and cajoling, distinctive, and was said to be one of her most potent political weapons. The lowered pitch was not only to sound more masculine but also to develop a calm and authoritative tone, revealing the extent to which power changes the way people speak.

Below is a video in which people talk about how certain kinds of voices are better suited for certain activities than others.

A British Sitcom: Yes Minister

This political satire British sitcom was broadcasted on BBC Television from 1986 to 1988, and was written by Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. It was also the favourite television program of the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who is well known as the “Iron Lady” and is also known for changing her voice, for lowering her pitch to sound more masculine!

In this clip we can see how the Prime Minister describes the British newspapers; it is a must-watch to all those who read British newspapers online.

Here is the transcript:

Sir Humphrey: The only way to understand the Press is to remember that they pander to their readers’ prejudices.

Jim Hacker: Don’t tell me about the Press. I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don’t care who runs the country—as long as she’s got big tits.