The Accent

We have had considerable discussion on the issue of racial prejudice. And quite right, too. But today I want to think about another prejudice. It rarely gets considered, it can have important advantages and disadvantages, and it appears to be near universal, at least in the UK. And I have to say that because I must accept that I certainly have it. Do you? If so, you may recognise my confession.

The issue is accent. It would seem that we make instinctive judgments about the people we meet. Some accents depend on origin – say Scottish or West Country. Immediately they indicate to me the nature of the speaker. For instance, I assume a Scotsman to be careful about money. The West Country accent suggests rural, and all that goes with that. But the ordinary English accent is what I have in mind.

Quite simply an English accent immediately suggests class – and with the right class — comes intelligence and reliability. It can sometimes be taken too far. Rees Mogg is an example — rightly or wrongly, I assume that his accent was constructed by him or his forebears. Nor, my mother assumed, is the accent of the Royal Family. When I went out into the world my mother said, “Don’t marry into the Royal Family – they are upstart Germans.” However, that issue, unsurprisingly, never occurred. But my mother was a Thorold, and the Thorolds are a pre-Conquest family. My mother was not in any way a snob – she always had excellent relationships with the servants: some of whom, after 60 years, still send me Christmas cards.

I have a vivid memory of Wilfred Pickles reading the BBC News in the late 40’s. I found that I could not rely on his rustic Yorkshire accent, and had to check it with a BBC News read in a public school accent. I have a theory that the criterion to be accepted by a leading university is related to accent. It may be changing nowadays.

The word ‘girl’ interests me. The common pronunciation is ‘gurl’. But, until I started school, I used ‘gal’. And I fear that I still do. No one takes any notice nowadays so another measure of background has sunk into the background.

The subject is an important one. Racial prejudice is rightly condemned because it leads to unfair assumptions. So we may have a picture in our minds of the characteristics of Jewish people, or Irish people, or working class people – and so on. And perhaps we are not aware that all such groups affect our judgments of the people we meet – whether positively or negatively. But although our day to day judgments are not seen as racialism, the vices of racialism may abound without the knowledge of the individual who is unconsciously making the judgment. Me, certainly – and you perhaps?

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Neuroscience, Quentin queries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The Accent

  1. G.D says:

    Yes – the ‘upper class’ English accent is seen (generally!!) by the upper class as marking one as ‘superior’, the ‘west country accent’ as ‘dumb yokel’. (As that is my accent i have specific experiences of that!).
    But also, from my social realm – the person with an ‘upper class’ accent is seen (generally!!) as a selfish arrogant ‘snob’ and not to be trusted.

    (Should have saved my comment on your previous post for here! But i won’t copy it. Thank you Ignatius for your considered response. And, yes, it may well be fear of difference that makes one need to be powerfully superior and/or aggressively defensive!).

    As i said there …. An ‘elitist’ ATTITUDE of any one, or any group = root cause of all ‘racism’ (as in: any class cultural religious divides & prejudices; unconscious or not; for violent attack or violent defence) directed within one’s own group &/or outside of it. For whatever reason/traits.

    Tentatively suggest …. ‘watchfulness of thoughts’ in meditation as a ‘cure all’. Can’t hide from yourself when trying to be ‘silent’ before God. You’d be surprised what is revealed! And the Equanimity, that shows equality of value for all, that is experienced.
    Often distractions in prayer are the content of prayer. Prayer from ‘spirit’ (unconsciously) we’d rather not acknowledge!

  2. ignatius says:

    Precisely. Pretending these things away is a complete waste of time..acknowledgement is the key to later detachment, or at least self awareness. Imagining ourselves to be something we are not is a hiding to nowhere.

  3. John Nolan says:

    When foreigners learn English they learn either a ‘standard’ north American pronunciation or a standard ‘British’ one. The latter is known as received pronunciation or RP. They also are expected to conform to rules of grammar and syntax which are not dialectical. And formal communication (both written and spoken) is expected to conform to the same norms.

    I learned French at school and was taught that -un and -in were pronounced differently, and the dictionaries backed this up. Yet the first time I was in Paris and asked for ‘un vin rouge’ the waiter corrected me by repeating it so that the ‘un’ rhymed with ‘vin’. Go to Provence and ‘de moins en moins’ is pronounced the way an Englishman who knew no French at all might pronounce it.

    When I went up to university (Durham) in 1969 I had done my best to rid myself of any vestige of east midlands accent. Most of my friends there were RP speakers. But when buying a ticket at the railway station I soon learned to ask for a return to New-cass-il with the stress on the second syllable.

  4. Alasdair says:

    Surely we’ve been through all this

  5. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // although our day to day judgments are not seen as racialism, the vices of racialism may abound without the knowledge of the individual who is unconsciously making the judgment. Me, certainly – and you perhaps? //

    Perhaps, though I’d have to be convinced it matters.

    In America, an accent *may* sometimes be a class marker. I suppose it must be. But I’ve not noticed that it’s high on the list of condemnable prejudices maintained by the new Puritans.

    Of course, “accent” – like any word or phrase – is up for being defined and modified variously. For example, there are heavy accents, attractive accents, regional accents, and incomprehensible accents. And accent is kin to idiom, patois, and slang. All can be thought of as aspects of communicability. The closer one looks at any issue, the more complex it becomes :o)

    • ignatius says:

      As far as I can see all we have decided is that human beings, by and large,tend to view one another with suspicion…hmm that’s a surprise isn’t it!

      • David Smith says:

        // As far as I can see all we have decided is that human beings, by and large,tend to view one another with suspicion…hmm that’s a surprise isn’t it! //

        You know, I think you’ve hit on the root cause of all this madness. It’s simple. In a nutshell, humans – and all animals, no? – are instinctively mistrustful of others. We need to be. It’s a survival mechanism.

        But a healthy distrust can become infected with self-regard and turn into loathing. Only wisdom and humility can save us from that. And in this amoral culture, wisdom and humility have been repressed, even outlawed.

        We have here an excess of loathing. A severely righteous crowd have taken charge, determined to repress the rest. For their own good, of course.

  6. Alasdair says:

    So that I could begin to comprehend this discussion, I’d be grateful if someone could give me examples of people who speak with
    1) a standard British accent
    2) a standard American accent
    3) “RP”
    4) an upper class English accent
    Prior to the previous treatment of this topic I had only heard of the last of these – my Russell Group university education having obviously been lacking in that regard.
    I believe this “baseline” will be required by readers who are not within a certain bubble.

    • David Smith says:

      Alasdair writes:

      // So that I could begin to comprehend this discussion, I’d be grateful if someone could give me examples of people who speak with
      1) a standard British accent
      2) a standard American accent //

      I know nothing about the varieties of British English accents, but the standard American accent is fairly easily defined. In fact, it’s widely taught here to English language learners. Just plug “american accent” into a search engine.

      Here’s one page among many:

      https://www.wikihow.com/Fake-a-Convincing-American-Accent

      This is merely a neutral accent, without regional peculiarities; it is not, I think, a class marker. It pretty much guarantees comprehensibility everywhere.

      • Alasdair says:

        Thank you David. At least that is clear. As for the British accents – that is less clear.

  7. galerimo says:

    No, Quentin It is not that “Racial prejudice is rightly condemned because it leads to unfair assumptions”.

    It is condemned because it leads to murder.

    That is why Francis puts racism on a par with abortion.

    I could hardly say that abortion is rightly condemned because it leads to unfair outcomes and leave it at that?

    Unless people did not want to hear the truth about abortion.

    Likewise, for racism. We don’t want to hear about it.

    Because of what it is. And it is the inbreeding of social taboos that seek to kill the other not for what they have done but simply for who they are.

    Accent too, as a feature of the human voice, is like colour as a feature of human skin. It’s another marker to alert our racist tendencies to their prey.

    Our Y chromosome may be the reason we grow a penis, but science has yet to find a genetic marker that determines whether we prefer blue shorts to pink dresses.

    By the same token, our inbred, learned racist behaviour, not tendencies, is what predetermines us to hate people because of their accent, skin or hair colour, or the way they dress.

    It’s the way we’ve been brought up. It is what we have learned even it was never consciously taught.

    And like the foetus long before it matures enough to be able to tell us who the person is, we too like to kill those whose physical features arouse our hatred. Kill them, reduce their life one way or another.

    The really horrible bit is that we are totally blind to the fact that we are doing it -all the time.
    Often through our institutions and systems of control.

    The law and those who uphold the law, like national leaders and police officers and the courts do it on our behalf. Like 8 minutes and 45 seconds of a lynching, we turn away and carry on.

    So, it seems our topic has not changed. With accent just like other common but not universal features, we are still looking at racism. Just how visible that it depends on us.

  8. John Nolan says:

    Sorry, galerimo, you occasionally talk sense but your latest contribution is nonsense on stilts. During the last war a British soldier reminded his Australian comrade who was banging on about colonial ideas of linguistic equality:

    ‘We know who our officers are, even in the dark.’

  9. Alasdair says:

    This theme is starting to clarify something from my past that I didn’t understand.
    For a number of years I worked for a large nominally-British multinational company. It was staffed by highly skilled professionals from the length and breadth of the UK mixed in with some Americans and assorted others. A very good and very effective mixture of people, none of whom would have understood or cared about the issue we are discussing.
    Then I moved to a French multinational rival. Apart from myself, all of the Brits in the French company had attended famous independent schools and had gone on to Oxford. In most cases their degrees and previous employment history were quite inadequate for their duties – and yes they did all speak with the same accent. I now understand that the French human resources people were using laughably anachronistic criteria for employing local (ie British) staff. Criteria which had been ditched by British companies 40 years before.

    • David Smith says:

      Alasdair writes:

      // I now understand that the French human resources people were using laughably anachronistic criteria for employing local (ie British) staff. Criteria which had been ditched by British companies 40 years before. //

      That’s tantalizing, Alasdair. Could you describe the criteria?

      • Alasdair says:

        There must have been a belief doing the rounds among the French at that time that in the UK, accent could be used as an indicator of intelligence and that the RP accent was a requirement for recruiting top-line local staff. I can assure you that experience quickly disabused them of this notion. Some of the staff recruited in this manner proved to quite incapable of operating in a highly pressured operational environment dealing with challenging technical issues with colleagues and partners from different backgrounds. To be fair there were two notable exceptions both of whom had benefitted from some military experience in their past.
        Some of these “managers” eventually found themselves shunted sideways into largely ceremonial roles like community liason, and meeting Royalty and Government ministers where presenting the “Britishness” of the company was considered important.

      • David Smith says:

        Alasdair writes:

        // There must have been a belief doing the rounds among the French at that time that in the UK, accent could be used as an indicator of intelligence and that the RP accent was a requirement for recruiting top-line local staff. //

        Thanks, Alasdair.

        Jumbled-thought alert. An assumption underlying the belief that a received accent was an accurate pointer to capability in Britain must have been that the British were a simple people, easily understood and easily pleased. Perhaps the French employers felt secure in that assumption because they, in turn, believed it of themselves: graduates of the grandes écoles always make the most capable French employees. Curious. I think that we often understand very little of what we believe. Knowing and believing may be much the same thing. “I know it’s true” = “I believe it’s true”. And the tendency to think that way seems to suggest that deep down we know that in truth, we can know nothing. Generations of youth have now been passed through educational systems that present mountains of facts for them to memorize while strongly implying that the only “truth” beyond these facts is to be found in the emotions. Secular craziness taught as “science” has given us a populace of highly educated (“educated” = trained) moral infants.

        A pity religion was not up to the task of countering this. No wonder it’s being left behind.

        By the way, this is a nice short conversation on, among other things, how organized religion flubbed the lockdown:

        https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/unlock-the-churches-

        This looks promising, but I’ve not yet listened to it:

        https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/have-the-churches-been-betrayed-by-their-bishops-

      • Alasdair says:

        David. Thanks for your “Jumbled Thought Alert” which accurately hits the mark. In fact there was huge snobbery within the French staff. This was mainly between Grandes Ecoles graduates and mere university graduates. Particularly the rarefied Ecole Polytechnique products who were called “polytechniciens”. No equivalent institution exists in the UK except perhaps Imperial College, London.
        Impressively, Imperial are the current BBC University Challenge quiz champions even though the school doesnt ‘even teach most of the subject matter which questions are based upon. The star of the team, Brandon Blackwell is a black New Yorker with a distinct NY accent.

  10. FZM says:

    Our Y chromosome may be the reason we grow a penis, but science has yet to find a genetic marker that determines whether we prefer blue shorts to pink dresses.

    There is at least one other way of approaching this question because as far as I know genetics does not always work like this, there often aren’t specific single genes for psychological traits, even when these traits are likely to be in some way heritable. The occurrence of ethnocentrism in its positive and negative forms in human group relations (the basis of racism) is much more universal and more of a constant than the connection of the colour blue to males and the colour pink to females.

    There are a number of lines of evidence for the fact that it is an inherited human tendency, selected for during human evolution because it enhanced reproductive success for those who possessed and manifested the trait.

    For this reason there isn’t a need to teach it or pass it on by mysterious means, in the right circumstances it will just begin to manifest itself.

    Hatred can be seen more like a by product than the root motivation for killing people of other ethnic groups. The real origin is in the competition for scarce resources and the resultant threat which other groups can pose to the children, grand children, great grand children etc. of the members of the group to which the would be killers belong.

    This is also supported by the understanding of the way in which the tendency to sin is closely bound up with mortality and the flawed, mortal nature that all humans inherit from Adam and Eve. People seem to instinctively aspire to immortality, and an approximation of it can be found in their children and future descendants. So for their security they engage in these kinds of prodigious feats of bravery, endurance and savagery that in the European case were exemplified in the generations living in the first half of the 20th century. I also think it is why what GD posted above is a part of the fundamental and deepest solution to problems like racism; it’s only by reaching out to Christ and asking Him to have mercy on us and to raise us up to our true immortal nature that these things can be fully overcome.

  11. ignatius says:

    Yes, This is getting quite close to something interesting:
    “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, lets go out to the field. And while they were in teh field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain:
    “where is your brother Abel? :
    “I don’t know,” he replied
    “Am I my brothers keeper?”

    The there those marvellous few lines from an old Leonard Cohen song:The story of Isaac:

    “When it all comes down to dust, I will kill you if I must, I will help you if I can,
    When it all comes down to dust, I will help you if I must, I will kill you if I can..
    Have mercy on our uniform, Man of peace and Man of war,
    The peacock spreads its fan..

  12. ignatius says:

    In other words we are, it seems to me, drifting towards saying that there is a genetic predisposition t sin:
    “The occurrence of ethnocentrism in its positive and negative forms in human group relations (the basis of racism) is much more universal and more of a constant than the connection of the colour blue to males and the colour pink to females…”
    So are we saying that there is in us a streak of behaviour which tends towards making an enemy of the other, rather than a brother?

    • FZM says:

      In other words we are, it seems to me, drifting towards saying that there is a genetic predisposition t sin:

      “The occurrence of ethnocentrism in its positive and negative forms in human group relations (the basis of racism) is much more universal and more of a constant than the connection of the colour blue to males and the colour pink to females…”

      So are we saying that there is in us a streak of behaviour which tends towards making an enemy of the other, rather than a brother?

      I think so, looking at the Catechism on the topic of Original Sin there are the following lines:

      In para.404 ‘By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all of mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice.’

      In para 405 ‘(Original Sin) is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence.’

      Having a body is one of the essential features of a human person so it doesn’t seem surprising that genetics can in various ways reflect of be shaped by this. The problem would be if having a predisposition or potential for a particular behaviour became linked to a belief that a person was predetermined to engage in it. But as well as cooperative instincts and altruism there does seem to be a very recurrent trend towards people making others their enemy.

  13. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes:

    // So are we saying that there is in us a streak of behaviour which tends towards making an enemy of the other, rather than a brother? //

    I don’t know what we’re saying, but one can always see the glass as half empty or half full.

    If we didn’t distrust one another, we couldn’t trust anyone. And trust is fragile – it’s always possible that it will be betrayed. Those are simply realities. They cannot be changed any more than a leopard can rid himself of his spots. To call them “bad” is to call moonlight bad. It’s absurd.

    Western man talks far too much. It’s our besetting sin.

  14. ignatius says:

    Hmmm..Murder, for example, is definitely not a half empty/ half full sort of thin,g. On the other hand I think it was Aquinas ..or Augustine? .. described original sin as the ‘happy fault of Adam’
    Described thus because redeemed man could now enjoy, consciously, the fruit of Mercy and redemption, could become the one who, having been forgiven much, loved much. In my view this subject is worth a few words on because one is ever searching for helpful and contemporary ways to frame a discourse about sin and forgiveness. On the other hand words are wearisome if one pays too much attention to them I agree. Rather one has to sift the general drift, very much as a glider pilot might seek out a particular current of breeze passing through the hot air.

  15. G.D says:

    Tendency to sin maybe but for what reason ……?? Most very young children seem to want to relate openly and with love … how much of ‘sin’ is learned behaviour from the way our parents (mis)treat us?
    I tend to think ‘racism’ (as my general definition previously) is learned not ‘inbred’. And conversely as are ‘tendencies to altruism'(?). No one is perfect of course.
    Yet we do seem have an ability to resit our baser instincts, that animals don’t. … And is that the (redeemed?) legacy of ‘Adam & Eve’ (‘necessary sin’) rather than a ‘contamination of human nature’? Tend to think so myself. …. ….. Ops i disagree with the catechism, yet again. What a good Catholic i am!
    ‘there is a crack in everything., that’s how the light gets in’ to quote Leonard Cohen again.

    • FZM says:

      Tendency to sin maybe but for what reason ……?? Most very young children seem to want to relate openly and with love … how much of ‘sin’ is learned behaviour from the way our parents (mis)treat us?

      Ethnocentrism seems to become stronger when social stress increases and this happens when the lives of the people making up a society are threatened or at risk. There can be different reasons for this. In Western countries at the moment social stress levels are at probably never before seen historical lows and have been for some time, so you would expect people to be more receptive to teaching against ethnocentric or racist attitudes and be more open. And in general people are less ethnocentric and more open than they were in the past.

      If we returned to the living conditions of Europe before 1800, when it seems 50% of children died before they reached 17 years old and only around 10% of people got to have grandchildren, so much higher stress conditions, these kind of ethnocentric attitudes would probably re-emerge and it would be harder to teach effectively against them.

  16. ignatius says:

    “There is a crack in everything,that’s how the light gets in”
    Yes, one of my favourite quotes from the old master who, as you probably know, remained a practicing Jew… even in his buddhist phase!
    The other of his song lines I particularly like is from ‘Bird on the wire’:

    “Well I’ve been where you’re hanging and I think I can see how you’re pinned..When you are not feeling holy your loneliness says that you’ve sinned”
    Then ,of course there is the line from “The Old revolution”:

    “I finally broke into the prison..I found my place in the Chains…Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows..All the brave young men, they are waiting now to see a signal, that some killer will be lighting for pay…Into this furnace I ask you now to enter..you who I cannot betray…”

    I often find myself humming those last lines as I draw keys to go in to the prison where I work. In truth sometimes the poets have it over the theologians and philosophers with regard to describing the life we live. For myself I seem to have come to the conclusion that ‘time’ is a bit of a fiction and that we are all standing together in the Garden of Eden and gazing the passion of Christ, all the while wondering which way to jump…

    • milliganp says:

      I’ve tried reading all this thread in order to join in but fear madness if I try to counter some of the issues I disagree with vehemently. So I’ll just add one of my favourite Cohen lyrics on which I did once preach – “And Jesus was a sailor / when he walked upon the water / and he spent a long time watching / from his lonely wooden tower / and when he knew for certain / only drowning men could see him / he said all men will be sailors then / until the sea shall free them”
      I read it as we can only be saved when we realise we are drowning in our sin and are incapable of our own salvation.
      “If it be your will” is close to a psalm but contains Cohen’s juxtaposition of faith and sexuality.

      • ignatius says:

        Ah yes, beautiful lines. I’ve listened to them for nearly 50 years now..I was 15 in a would be band when Suzanne came out, a friend of mine came round our house pretending he’d written it!. It strikes me that much of Cohen’s stuff is about the juxtaposition of which you speak. “Night comes on” is worth listening to. I saw him several years back in London, it was a marvellous evening. But something about him rings a warning bell inside.

  17. G.D says:

    inatius, Prophets always ring that warning bell … !
    Quentin, you’ll have to change the name to ‘Cohen Appreciation of Science & Theology’ at this rate ….. !!
    Yes, P, only those who know they are drowning can see Him …. hold off the madness … and let rip! Calmly of course!

  18. ignatius says:

    Hi G.D No that’s not what I mean’t. If you delve around in Cohen’s life you will find a struggle between Agape and Eros as preferred modes of existence. Cohen seemed to relish his delight in women, he seemed to too much enjoy his dilemmas of flesh. When you read around his life there are parts of it which seem quite destructive. On the other hand there’s simply no denying his status as brilliant songwriter and poet. Thats what I mean by a warning bell, the bell of addictive seduction dressed up as wisdom.

    • FZM says:

      There are some colourful stories about him. He was a great live performer even in the 2010s though so must have had powerful charisma when he was younger.

      • ignatius says:

        One of the great things about seeing him live is that you become aware of how much of a musician he was. The musical arrangements and vocal harmonies of his productions really are quite gorgeous. Apparently he had such a reputation for perfection in musicianship that excellent artists were always keen to work with him. The interplay of male and female vocals in ‘Hey that’s no way to say goodbye’ for example speaks a story about men and women, quite astounding performance.

    • G.D says:

      Ah, yes that’s so true about him too! Just like the depictions of many in the Old Testament. (And many ‘sincere faithful oldies’ in younger days, of all times ?) …. Not placing him on a pedestal, just grateful for the wisdom within the ‘works’. …….. Now just thanking God for the depiction of graces to struggle for Agape over Eros. ….. I said it ‘lightly’; ‘Tongue in cheek’ so to speak. … Obviously ‘my accent’ didn’t come through.

      • ignatius says:

        ” I said it ‘lightly’; ‘Tongue in cheek’ so to speak. … Obviously ‘my accent’ didn’t come through…”
        Nuance never plays well online. To get anywhere you have to elucidate a meaning quite clearly . Lightness of touch is best expressed by parentheses “…..”

        But it set me thinking anyway. Cohen does actually lay bare a dilemma. For example Davids adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequently arranged murder of Uriah. Murder and adultery brought forth psalm 51 which is one of the best known in the bible and also perhaps the most used to talk of repentance contrition and cleansing; it is enormously popular in the prison for example. So does that excuse Davids conduct?

        You may wonder why I bring up the subject with regard to Cohen. Cohen has the ability to bring what could be described as some kind of revelation about the human condition particularly in relation to the power of desire and its interface with passion and religion…it is after all the very place he lived in himself for many years. Yet by his own admission he fell very short in terms of fatherhood, his actual lived life was at times by no means a good witness. When I listen to his music these days I find that, though compellingly exquisite, too much of it tends to exert a downward drag. Its a bit the same with the poet Rilke -powerful verse which originates from the ecstatic aspect of religious passion- but yet does not ultimately uplift, rather it exhausts.

        Cohen presents a picture of life lived with human passion at its centre, for the christian this is not permissible since the passion of agape is that of Christ not of sexual desire. Yet we are made flesh and Cohen does in a sense remind us quite profoundly that human sexuality itself – in all its vulnerability, passion, generosity, danger, pleasure and laughter – is quite capable of providing an allegory of divine love…………….as you can tell this is something I’ve pondered over for a long time!

  19. Geordie says:

    When I was eleven in 1953, I went to the Radio Show with the school. On one stall there was a recorder. You pressed a button and held it down and you were invited to recite “Mary had a little lamb…..”. Then it was played back. I was appalled at my strong Geordie accent. I lost a lot of confidence and was reluctant to talk in public debates etc. It was only when I went to college in Manchester and the English dept. did a survey on the different accents in England. The Geordie accent was the most popular by a mile. The only people who seemed to dislike the accent were from the North-East.
    After that I was quite proud of my accent. Hence it has become my nom-de-plume and I’ve never tried to “improve” my accent. I’ll be honest, I have come to the age now when I don’t care about accents one way or the other. However, it does annoy me when those with an RP accent are considered to be brighter than the rest of us. The Eton-educated politicians don’t seem to be too bright, but they are good talkers. I’ve heard more intelligent comments about the coronavirus from truck drivers than from so called knowledgeable scientists and politicians.

  20. ignatius says:

    “I’ve heard more intelligent comments about the coronavirus from truck drivers than from so called knowledgeable scientists and politicians…”

    Hi Geordie Perhaps you could regale us with one, I’d be interested to hear it..!

    • Alasdair says:

      “The Eton-educated politicians don’t seem to be too bright, but they are good talkers. I’ve heard more intelligent comments about the coronavirus from truck drivers than from so called knowledgeable scientists and politicians”.
      I had a socially distanced conversation with a delivery driver in the last week. He was livid about a question asked during the daily Downing Street briefing. A distinguished journalist had asked why the graph of cumulative infection numbers was levelling off but not coming down! Chief medical officer Jenny Harries had patiently explained what “cumulative” means! The journalist is a graduate of Balliol College, but clearly has an inferior basic education to my van driver friend.

  21. Geordie says:

    Ignatius

    Early advice by scientists and politicians said there is no evidence that masks prevented the spread of coronavirus. However common sense tells us that masks must lessen the spread of the virus. Plenty of ordinary people expressed this opinion.
    I could list a number of similar erroneous statements from “experts” but no doubt you know them. As one truck driver said on the radio yesterday, “If people think that utopia will be the result of the virus they are wrong, because as lock-down eases the roads have become more dangerous through drivers speeding, all over Europe.” Yet we are told that people are learning to be more caring.
    I believe that good people have become better and selfish people have become worse.

  22. ignatius says:

    Yes, I drove south and back yesterday and there were a lot of drivers recklessly speeding.

  23. G.D says:

    ‘The Eton-educated politicians don’t seem to be too bright, but they are good talkers.’ Don’t be fooled by the obfuscations, Geordie … They know exactly what they are doing with their ‘intelligence’. … Obfuscate enough and the truth becomes ‘irretrievable’ for most. …. Then the party line becomes ‘Only we in power know. Believe only what we say. Do only what we allow. Everything else id fake news.’ …. And most will be taken in by it. Already have maybe? ….. ‘1984’ is alive and nipping at our heels.

  24. galerimo says:

    Resuming work on site is just wonderful. Getting back to face to face contact.

    It brings to an end the practice of having to deal with people by phone only. No Skype or Zoom permitted. And that went on for nearly three months here.

    Accent was only one of the features of the human voice that formed the basis of a lot of pre-assessment.

    Here is where I did confront my preconceptions. Racism, Sexism, Ageism and Religious Bigotry.

    Male or female and how objective is my psychological response once I feel satisfied, I know the answer. Which on occasions has not always been correct, judging by the voice alone.

    Uncertain of the sex of my responder or their age often determines how the conversation that unfolds.

    I recall not being able to maintain a very “professional” demeanour when meeting two middle aged females one of whom introduced herself as the wife of the other. My judging by appearances.

    I think if Prince Andrew had picked up the phone, I would most probably be quick to judge from his plummy accent.

    I would find myself dealing with judgments around how people from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha don’t have to comply with the law. And how a lot of money can buy a lot of justice.

    But strangest of all, nearly everyone I spoke to, and they were all strangers to me, knew exactly where I come from, just by my accent alone.

    It can be like an earned increment. On one occasion several of my colleagues from different disciplines were rejected by an aggressive client and I was asked to try.

    As soon as I opened my mouth I was greeted with recognition of my origin and welcomed. It made possible the entree of others who could then start their treatments. But could have worked the other way too.

    I also noticed when I met a couple of people this week with whom I had spoken initially by phone last week, how completely different was our engagement.

    The accent indeed. It is only one of the accidents of birth and by no means unique to each person

    The accident of birth that is unique for each person is difference. And this is the only thing all conflicts have in common.

  25. David Smith says:

    galerimo writes:

    // Resuming work on site is just wonderful. Getting back to face to face contact.

    It brings to an end the practice of having to deal with people by phone only. No Skype or Zoom permitted. And that went on for nearly three months here.

    Accent was only one of the features of the human voice that formed the basis of a lot of pre-assessment. //

    Congratulations on your release from prison. Do they still have you wearing masks and “social distancing”?

    “Pre-assessment” is perfectly healthy and normal, galerimo. On the other hand, trying to prevent your mind from heeding all the cues that it naturally contends with is decidedly unhealthy. Whether or not it ceases to be abnormal depends largely on whether or not the evangelists of wokeness have their way in imposing their religion onto their societies. I wish them ill.

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