changing one's accent from posh to a little less posh

Chris F Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Tue Dec 5 21:20:00 UTC 2006

RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
> By the way, no one has yet taken notice of the article in the press today
> about the phonetics professor in Munich who has been studying the accent of the
> present Queen of England (the one who is not bald) by looking at recordings of
> her formal speeches made over the past 50 years. It appears that Queen
> Elizabeth II has become much more demotic in her accent over the years. [...]

This has been widely reported in the UK press (see for example, and
it is not for the first time. Last year in September, the -- overall
very good -- BBC Radio 4 Word4Word series of programs mentioned it, too.
(I happen to have recordings of all episodes.)

A relatively typical example from the Daily Telegraph, for your, um,

As the common tongue continues its inexorable slide towards a new dark
age of glottal stops and "innits", news comes that even the Queen is
drifting slowly down river towards Estuary English.

I arrived in London 8 months ago, and the dialect situation here has
been a surprise. Not because of the cosmopolitanism and the profusion of
accents marked by geographic origin or home language of immigrant
communities -- I expected that, but not the extent to which RP is
rejected by fairly traditionally well-educated and well-employed
youngish English people is now rejected. Of those in their mid to late
30s, two acquaintances told about becoming RP-ised at university, and
then de-RP-ised during the last few years. The most typical example of
the accent prevailing among these well-educated people from the London
area is that of Jon Dennis on the Guardian Newsdesk podcast (today's
edition is here:

There are also two distinct meanings of the term "received
pronunciation", one more or less equated with the "BBC English"
benchmark (which is the sense most people I know have) and the markedly
different "even posher" accent associated with the upper class and the
royal family.

Also, I played the "Geiko gecko" ad that was mentioned here a few months
ago to some English friends, and they found the Cockney accent
superannuated and therefore artificial. From what I hear, Cockney, too,
has changed a bit since, say, the 80s.

As for invariant "innit", it is clearly becoming a feature of the
informal register of Standard English English, functioning much like
"n'est-ce pas" in French, ie not only as a tag, but also as a short
reply, expressing various forms of emphatically charged assent. I have
examples of that. It doesn't always replace the full form, I think, but
often complements it.

Chris Waigl

The American Dialect Society -

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