Posts Tagged ‘Chat’

There is a… would you call it a jingle?… my wife was taught at her Grammar School. It was part of the How to improve your class-credentials, type of tuition. It goes:

Father’s car is a jaguar
and pa drives rather fast;
castles and farms, and draughty barns
we go charging past.

Got it so far? It’s all in the accentuation as yet: that ‘a’ is looong, it is ar, and not as here in the north, a short and abrupt a. And Jaguar, is given full pronunciation, where otherwise it would be more like Jagua. This lengthens the pronunciation, evens out the demotic, and levels emotive expression. All words are given the same value by this system, nothing as course as the personal can creep in.
And, look at the castles, that charging. Where are we? What part of the country – England – is this this? It is one connected intimately with conquest, and landed gentry (farms as part of their ‘landed estate’?). We instantly think of the south-east, and of the ‘home counties.’ The following commentator thought the same:
One comment on this link suggested they consider the area of Cranleigh, as a place still retaining something of the England that the jingle conjures.

Now comes the emphasis on expectation and prospects:

Arthur’s car is far less smart
and does not go half as fast –
but I’d rather ride in Arthur’s car
than in pa’s fast car.

Not one’s own car, mind, but ‘looked after,’ driven, escorted, and thereby treated as a prospective house wife, not career girl. All this is subtly implicated in learning the jingle. And yes, it did have to be learned, and recited regularly.

But I cannot help thinking of some of John Betjeman’s playful, wry, poems: A Subaltern’s Love Song/Miss J Hunter Dunn, say (- ‘furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun’. Why the abbreviations? A nineteenth century poetic metre redundancy, played up to tweak the reader’s resources)
But Betjeman’s ladies are all self-sufficient, strong, and resourceful.
Betjeman, himself, carefully hid his ‘trade’ background among Oxford ‘friends.’ That is, those from upper class backgrounds.

Would this, then, be the same ‘grammar school accent’ that Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves joked about, talking of Wilfred Owen? Public school chums laughing at the parvenus. Wilfred Owens poems of that time have certainly outlasted Graves’. Sassoon…?
Have they lasted because they have the direct speech of people, and not the ‘clubby,’ insider talk, of the public shoolers?

What of our white-gloved, and parasol’d, young leddy in pa’s car? ‘Leddy’? This is the further reach of this teaching: Received Pronunciation. Received Pronunciation was the lingua franca of the new radio and TV media. At that time regional accent retained strength, and, some would say, impenetrability. We witnessed it fairly recently when Geordie, Cheryl Tweedie’s, American debut was met with incomprehension.
But RP got its information through. Unfortunately some adopted it as ‘a tongue’ in itself, the language of the upwardly mobile.

– Remember Frasier, on TV? Frasier’s dad, playing an American ex-cop, was from Manchester originally. And the actress playing Daphne Moon, from southern England, was playing a Mancunian, – badly.

Yet accent can so lift a piece of writing. The many accents in Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos – we only hear the thick (and adenoidal? Or is that more New Jersey?) Noo Yoik tones towards the end of the book. Southern writers traded on the baroque language of their States (and how I miss Justified: Timothy Olyphant at his best?).

When was the period of America’s accents? The strong Texan, the Appalachian, the New York, and Detroit?
I was recently reading A Pioneer Woman’s Memoir, of Arabella Clemens, based on the diaries of a young woman taking the pioneer trail from North Carolina, to Oregon, in the 18860s.
She does not mention State accents – no proof in itself, but nor does she mention problems in understanding people’s speech in the States she passed through between North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho.

This Wiki article suggests many American accents are ‘recent’ – that phrase needs definition, though.


We do have to distinguish between accent and slang. Slang can never be right in work’s professional situations, can it? I’ve heard young professionals using the ‘f’ for ‘th’  deviation: ‘free’ for ‘three’ etc. Just baby talk, to me. And the glottal stop: bo’le for bottle…. Conversely, there’s the over-emphasis eg mod-del for model etc. And then there’s the execrable ‘ta’oo,’ for ‘tattoo’.


I do wonder, in the jingle, about pa, showing off to his daughter by charging down country lanes in his Jaguar.
Parading his virility – to his daughter? Setting up for her impossible expectations?
Yep, we get the message, some arrogant, wealthy, ego maniac, caring nothing for anyone but himself and his own.
Ownership, and thereby deference.

You could just slap him, couldn’t you.

But then, that would be bad manners.