Tuesday, July 04, 2006

5-times-a-night-Tony Blair & Margaret Thatcher in stockings

If either of the images in the title of this post make you feel queasy, you're not the only one. So imagine what it was like for poor David Cameron, fresh-faced new leader of the decidedly ancient Tory Party, when Jonathan Ross asked him a peresonal question about his sexual fantasies as a young lad.

And according to a report a couple of weeks ago in The Guardian, Britain's political discourse took a further downward turn when it was revealed that during a cabinet reshuffle, Margaret Beckett's response to being offered a new post was one word - the f-word.

Two different articles in two different newspapers offer two very different takes on these stories. In The Times, Minette Marin argues that these incidents are part of a radical coarsening of political language, while in The Guardian, Mark Lawson argues that swearing is a means of expressing rebellion against the constraints of the dominant culture of political soundbites, that in a way it's a response to the shackles of New Labour speak.

But it's also interesting to look at Marin's wider argument. As she says,

In a few years culture has become so hyper-sexualised that in order to speak demotic you need to talk dirty — or at least politicians and celebrities think you do. They feel the way to appeal to the voter or the punter is to pepper what you say with sexy words and sexy allusions, because that’s what most voters and punters increasingly do themselves.

There was a time in this country when only the working classes and the upper classes went in for effing and blinding and swearing like troopers, and not all of them. The respectable middle classes didn’t swear or talk dirty at all. Something changed in the 1960s; would-be left-wing intellectuals felt that to show solidarity with the masses they should talk like them. Hence student mockney, hence a fashion for swearing and talking dirty. Middle-class guilt made students feel they shouldn’t talk in the mannerly tones of middle-class privilege. This has persisted and spread.

So, it would appear that Marin believes our politicians are increasingly accommodating their language: downwardly converging to the vernacular they believe their target voters speak.

A quick look at this post from last month - Voice of the people - should give you a bit more background on this too, but the whole topic looks like a pretty good Language Investigation to me...

Useful for:
EA4C - Language Investigation

Black British English vs MLE

The latest episode of Lexis is out and it features an interview with Ife Thompson about lots of issues connected to Black British English, i...