Apparently someone called Prince Harry is 21 this week. While my personal hope is that the only words I ever hear a member of the royal family say are "Where did that guillotine come from?", for purely linguistic reasons it's quite interesting to listen to his speech and the reaction to it.
Why? Well, Harry's arse has a lot to do with it. Yes that's right, I said "arse" - or rather that's what Prince Harry said. Such profanity has shocked some people who have commented that a member of the royal family should not be using such vulgar expressions. But as Mark Lawson's Front Row programme on Radio 4 was quick to point out yesterday, royals have been swearing for some time now. From "B*gger Bognor" to "Naff orf!" the royals have been swearing like troopers for centuries.
But, as Lawson points out on his show (which you can listen to here - the bit you want is 27 minutes into the programme), this outburst might have been more calculated than previous royal bloomers. Could it be that Prince Harry is swearing so he comes across as "one of us", a normal down-to-earth geezer, not some over-privileged, inbred good-for-nothing sponger (as I once heard someone describe him)?
For a different perspective on this and a quick look at the word he used, have a butcher's at this article by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian
To read more about Prince Harry's speech, check here and if you're interested in looking at how prestige forms of speech - both Standard English and Received Pronunciation - have lost part of their appeal, there's a very good piece on the BBC website which traces the rise and fall of RP.
ENA5 - Language Varieties
ENA6 - Language Debates