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  • Interesting post. When I was at primary school (up to age 11) I was with students from relatively well-off families with educated backgrounds and jobs like school headmasters, accountants and so on. I talked like them, with BBC-English pronunciation and attempts at using the correct word for everything. But when I went to secondary school, I was in a large town with a largely working-class population, and the way students spoke reflected this. Within days of being at school I realised how different I sounded to most of the other students, and was made fun of for being “posh” (actually I wasn’t posh at all, I just spoke well). So in order to fit in I had to start speaking like the other students, dropping “t’s” from words (“la-er” instead of “later”) and things like that. Now I am an adult I try to speak well regardless of who I am around. But it is funny and very true that within the UK, people from good backgrounds now choose to speak with a working class accent. Thanks for an interesting read.

  • Thanks, Jon. That experience rings true! My family moved from London to Wiltshire when I was six and I remember having a very strong London accent (and tape recordings of what sounds like a cockney barrow boy singing “Li’l donkeeeee” to prove it). As well as consciously trying to fit in after moving, there was the added pressure of teachers telling us off for using “f” instead of of “th” or glottalising (an approach that I wouldn’t dream of adopting as a teacher these days) so the London accent soon went, but has resurfaced since moving back to London in the last decade.

    I’m sure part of their reaction against it was its working class connotations rather than its regional origin.

  • I’m not sure that it’s ‘snatched away’, as the original users of this language are not prevented from continuing to use it. But there is probably much more variety – in terms of ‘dialect’ vocabulary and regional accents – in ‘working-class’ speech than in that of other classes. Don’t the upper/middle classes talk much the same, anyway, regardless of which part of the country they came from? The vernacular is where the heart is – and this applies to other forms of culture too, like food and architecture.

  • I’m not sure…

    There’s often a rather knowingly ironic use of some working class vernacular by some of those who pick it up, and that kind of mockery diminishes the value of the form in the eyes of the original users sometimes, I think. Once you’ve heard a minted trustafarian answering his phone with a “Wassup blud?” you know it’s time to move on.

    There was even a touch of this with the Armstrong and Miller RAF chaps who spouted slang in RP voices. I really liked it, but many of my south London students at the time said they found it uncomfortable, perhaps because it mocked the language many of them used, or heard around them.

    Then again, if the cycle of creation – appropriation – recreation keeps going, that has to be a productive and exciting source of new language, so maybe it’s all good.