Friday, June 10, 2011

Placing the accent on bigotry

Articles about different accents are often full of judgemental adjectives like "lazy", "pleasant" and "harsh" (and you can see what genuine linguists  think of such vocabulary by having a look at Paul Kerswill and John Wells' comments about the recent Economist article on changing accents) but a piece by Telegraph journalist Ed West reaches some new lows.

For him, "Jafaican" (or Multicultural London English) is "rather unpleasant, sinister, idiotic and absurd". His entire premise seems to be built upon the wrongheaded notion that MLE is something people "put on" - that it's a fake accent and one that reflects a desire to be street. As he puts it, "In London the adoption of Jafaican, even among the privately-educated, reflects both a lack of confidence in British cultural values and an aspiration towards some form of ghetto authenticity".

Frankly, this is a pile of steaming cobblers. Underpinning it seems to be a profound dislike for the speakers of MLE and a simmering resentment that otherwise decent posh people (white people, dammit) are picking up this dirty ghetto accent. It's almost like they want to be black. Shame!

The article annoys me too much to string many more sentences together, so I'm glad that a more restrained and analytical response to it is presented here by Ben Trawick-Smith on Dialect blog. He ends by characterises the article as not "a writer bravely fighting against an increasingly “PC” world... just an ignorant rant".

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