Class and the English Accent

Class and English Accent

It must be high summer because the English accent and its class connections are being aired again. In his programme “Fry’s English Delight” Stephen Fry asks whether we’re bovvered by the issue of class and speech.

It’s startling that we’re sometimes made shy by the way we speak. I heard someone say today, that the only time they heard RP sounds nowadays (received pronunciation – upper class English) was when a foreigner spoke, as if by trying to emulate the sounds of English some people overshoot the mark of English as spoken nowadays. I have in the past, sometimes heard a weird “O” which sounds like the Queen in 1950 “eeeow – similar to the sound that young Americans make when they are really turned off by something. The Queen sounds very different today. She along with the rest of the general population, uses more open sounds, requiring a more open mouth. There are papers that have been written about how spoken English was affected by the two world wars. The closed mouth and tight vowels were in line with the stiff upper lip needed for fortitude during the time of war.

Great to hear Penny Dyer who’s always been my favourite dialect coach for RP and standard English. Penny Dyer is a great believer in how you use your accent. I have a friend who I can tell immediately if she’s cross about something because her speech becomes very crisp with short sounds and very precise ts. This is one of the things that can be so useful to actors who are using a dialect in a part. The one thing that I am sure of is that everyone has the right to speak and we should never be put off saying anything because we think that we’ll be judged by our accent. Once we think like that, we will sound odd.

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