The Hadleigh Society



John Griffin

I read in my newspaper (The Independent, no less) that Prunella Scales, the actress, is bewailing the inability of the younger generation of the acting profession to cope with the la-di-dah intonation etc. required for places in the cast of plays by such writers as Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward: apparently, after years of dumbing down of popular entertainment into such regional sounds as mummerset, there is a dearth of teachers of such affectations as used to be entitled King’s English, and spoken by such exalted persons as ‘aristocrats, clergy, landowners, politicians, members of the Royal Family, debutants, society hostesses. masters of foxhounds and actors of bygone years’.  Consequentially she plans to establish a sound library of what she terms ‘posh speech’ based on recordings in the National Sound Archives. Needless to say I am considering myself as a potential instructor.

Although I have lived in rural Suffolk for more than 70 years I think the linguistic hazards of such long residence have been survived, and the intonations (not neglecting the grammar) inherited from a long line of clergy, landowner- (the clergy once owned and farmed their glebe), debutants, lawyers and army and navy officers I was born too soon to have Air Force connections, besides we don’t like heights - give me an impeccable background to begin a new career in a Plummy Accent school: who will join me?

The necessary qualifications are as follows. Firstly, for those born in this county, there must no longer be any fiddleardling around with the accents and vocabulary of our childhood: we must grow up! Our vigorous remnants of the speech of Norseman and Dane, enshrined by Shakespeare or should it be Bacon or the Earl of Oxford?), and transported to the States in the vessels of the Pilgrim Fathers, must be set-a--side and trampled on like uncultivated fields. in favour of the upper class drawl of our Norman French masters and the wealthy 18th C. tourists who imposed imported Italian vowels upon the speech of the gentrified southern counties.

Professor Higgins. the instructor of Eliza Doolittle, must be our teacher until we can repeat “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain” to his satisfaction - shut your ears to Eastenders and all that lot; Queen’s English for Queen’s citizens! Begone harnsies, Pudin-a-Pokes and Yaffles, Teetamatorters. Dwiles and Mantles, and adopt the standard ornithological names and English Dictionary definitions and pronunciations. But how dull and tuneless! I don’t think I’ll be a follower of Prunella S. after all.