I had to smile at a young shopkeeper today commenting on my accent. It reminded me of a piece on radio recently that touched on the BBC’s Received Pronunciation and how it was once seen as essential for anyone hoping to be on air.
“Received Pronunciation, or RP for short, is variously referred to as the ‘Queen’s English’, ‘BBC English’ or ‘Oxford English’, and has, in the past at least, been seen as the accent usually described as typically British.”
It is something I have to be very aware of within the Bunch Courtney Investigations, not just because Bunch herself would have had a rather ‘cut glass’ (posh) accent but because it would have been normal for radio broadcasts of the time that the character might ‘listen to’ within the books. The upside off this is that writing dialogue is generally easier, though syntax of the era still needs to be taken in to account. Things such telling time. You would seldom hear people now saying five and twenty to three. To modern ears two thirty-five would be far more natural.
Yes, I have locally born Sussex folk dropping aitches and extending vowels but I try to give a flavour, rather than reproduce it as it would have sounded, because, like many local accents it would be impenetrable, especially when written down. I had a fairly strong Sussex accent as a young child, despite a Welsh mother and Surrey-raised father. The South-London I dived into as a teenager was different again and drew a lot of teasing from my father whenever I said ‘ain’t’ or ‘innit’.
Going back to today’s shopkeeper, she did not have a local midlands accent, but something akin to southern counties. It was not quite RP, but close, and she asked me in passing if I was South African!
Now people hereabouts have often marked me down as Australian, and occasionally Canadian, but this is a first for South African, and it made me wonder what my accent is.
Not RP, or London, nor even Home Counties in the usual fashion.