Monday, March 03, 2008

 

Class Conundrum


Indie hack, Simon Carr today raises the fascinating contradiction of the fact that the upper classes- together with the higher reaches of the middle classes- no longer talk as if someone has either a hand up their bottoms or around their throats. In the sixties the Queen used to talk in a high register whine which owed much to the twenties and thirties fashionable 'debspeak'. Prince Charles still speaks with his mouth full of interwar plums, but Prince Harry, in between all those clips of him trying to slaughter the Taliban, speaks in a different 'neutral' accent. I'm not sure it's quite like that as anyone can pick up the public school accent there but it is different from his Pa's weird 'chewing a wasp' pronunciation.

At the same time, Carr notes that:

Statistics show social mobility continues to worsen. Someone growing up on one of those estates we read about, has less chance of getting off it now than at any time since the war. So although the visible or audible effects of class have slunk out of sight, class itself retains its grip on the British.

Visitors to this country might be seduced into thinking what many of those on the right tend to assert is in fact the case: that Britain is now a 'classless society'. How wrong they are. The gap between the rich and poor is bigger than ever and the cosmetic changes to accents which lead the kids of posh people to adopt some of the habits of the non posh,(largely, I suspect, to appear 'cool') should not delude us otherwise.

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