Why is there still so much prejudice towards working-class accents? | Dreda Say Mitchell

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Why is there still so much prejudice towards working-class accents? | Dreda Say Mitchell
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Crime novelist and broadcaster Dreda Say Mitchell says that prejudice against working-class accents must go

Its in the nature of appearances on broadcast media that you can expect a little criticism from listeners and viewers, and over the years Ive had my share. Ive been accused of fascism and communism, of saying too much, or too little, and of letting other guests get away with it. But throughout, there has been one constant theme: why do Irefuse to speak English properly?

In particular, tweeters and emailers want to know why I drop the letter G off the end of the present continuous and why I cant pronounce the dental fricative or th sound as its known to the rest of us. Ive heard other members of the dwindling band of broadcasters from humble backgrounds report similar experiences. The Labour MP Angela Rayner revealed at the weekend that on social media shes been called thick because of her northern accent. And this is the real question being posed here why are they bringing working-class types into studios to comment on respectable peoples business?

For decades linguists, academics and agitators have been providing helpful answers to that question, and on one level these efforts have been a success: class prejudice is now deemed to be as unacceptable as any other kind. But supposed social progress can often be an effective way of disguising whats really going on under the surface. There are still many people in this country who dont understand that language is a means of communication, not a symbol of social status and that the working class includes some of the most intelligent, articulate and witty people in our society.

Ditch the dickie bows

Men are allowed to put on a black suit women are expected to be creative and original. Sean Connery and Eunice Gayson in Dr No. Photograph: Everett/REX/Shutterstock

Despite my lamentable accent, Iam occasionally invited to black-tie events, and Im off to one this week. I enjoy them: we can all use a little glamour in our lives. But while I realise its not the most pressing issue for the average feminist, the gender differential at these events has always bothered me.

Men are allowed to put on a black suit with an elasticated dickie bow, and theyre considered good to go. Although theres no doubt a man in a suit can cut quite a dash, they often end up looking like mourners at a funeral or nightclub bouncers. Women, meanwhile, are expected to be creative and original, and strike the right note of subtle sensuality. For those of us for whom fashion is something that happens to other people, that can be a tall order.

I realise it may be quite some time before Im hosting my own black-tie event, but Id like to put my guests on notice now with respect to the dress code. Women will be refused entry if theyre not in black suits and ties; men, on the other hand, will be expected to show colour, style and wit in their expensive outfits, which will be accessorised with jewellery and bags. My door staff have been advised and now you have too.

Law of the jungle

The western world continues to creep towards legalisation. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

At last, theres some welcome news in the war on drugs. After a tipoff, a team of officers from Thames Valley police descended on woodland near Oxford and dug up a cannabis plantation they found there. To show the unidentified cultivator that there were no hard feelings, they left a note on the site saying: Ooops! Sorry we missed each other, but feel free to call me on 101 so we can discuss a deal. Lots of love, TVP xx. They promptly tweeted this message with the hashtag #WeveGotManners.

Its good to discover there are public servants with a sense of humour, though its difficult to think of another crime scene the force would have treated in the same manner. In a murder case, I doubt whether their statement would include gags and be tweeted with the hashtag #WhoDoneTheStiff.

As the western world continues to creep towards legalisation, perhaps the real message here is that the police agree with much of the rest of the population, and think our cannabis laws are laughable.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/11/prejudice-working-class-accents-mp-thick-social-media

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