The 'ell of modern speech

PUBLISHED: 13:37 11 May 2007 | UPDATED: 22:47 28 May 2010

If you ve been watching ITV on Sunday evenings, you ll know their new drama series entitled Kingdom is about an affable solicitor played by Stephen Fry. I wish I knew where to find such a solicitor especially as he doesn t charge for such little matters

If you've been watching ITV on Sunday evenings, you'll know their new drama series entitled 'Kingdom' is about an affable solicitor played by Stephen Fry.

I wish I knew where to find such a solicitor especially as he doesn't charge for such little matters as proving a will.

The producers won't say which town the series is set in. It looks like Swaffham to me. Predictably, it's upset the professional Narfalk bors and gals who say the accents are all wrong - despite its having employed a dialect coach.

I know the problem. Years ago I produced a radio play set in Norfolk and it was a devil of a job to find actors with anything like a convincing accent.

I suppose it's as well not many films and plays are set in the Fens. The Fenny accent ain't something they teach at drama school - but the things that annoy me about the way people speak round here have nothing to do with the Fen brogue.

First, there's the modern habit of greeting everyone with "Hi-ya". "Hi" is American for "hello" so presumably "Hi-ya" means "Hello you". It's acceptable from a teenager wanting to be friendly but I don't want to be rudely greeted by nurses, shop assistants and assorted civil servants with the words "Hello you".

Then there's the new fashion of making a perfectly ordinary statement with a rising inflection at its end so it sounds like a question or as if the speaker is utterly clueless as in "I'm going to Whittlesey tomorrow." The only answer is, "Well if you don't know, I certainly don't."

It's an Australian affliction which I presume we've caught by watching too many episodes of 'Neighbours' over the last 22 years. The BBC has been paying £25,000 of your licence money to show each episode. Thank heaven they've refused to pay what the producers are now demanding, namely £100,000 for each 25 minutes of this antipodean garbage.

Closer to home, there's one more speech tic we've acquired. Suddenly, everyone seems to think the eighth letter of the alphabet is called "haitch" and not "aitch".

This must be out of a desire to appear posh by not dropping one's aitches. If so, why haven't the same people decided the letter after "K" is "Hell"?

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