Correspondence

The Collapse of British English

The English language is in danger. It is being invaded and infiltrated by the vulgar slang, the horrid jargon, the grammatical errors and the nasal pronunciation of the United States. Such is the nightmare of those crumbling remnants of the British establishment who still prize the affected tones of what was once termed the Oxford accent, B.B.C. English, the public-schools' drawl. Today Oxford students tend to sound like the provincial chemists they are, the B.B.C. weather forecasts are given out by an entertaining Irishman from County Antrim, and even England's expensive elite boarding schools are more concerned with examination results than with ensuring that their pupils acquire porcelain vowels and effortlessly slurred consonants. Even the younger members of the British royal family have modified their speech away from the exclusive, hierarchical manner of the old English upper classes. Queen Elizabeth II is the last British monarch to speak like the Queen of England to her subjects. Charles, Prince of Wales has already implicitly indicated that when he succeeds to the throne he will speak as King of the British people.

All these changes are part of the slow social revolution that has transformed Britain during the last fifty years and leveled the former pinnacles of the English aristocracy, if not to a broad flat democratic American plain, at least to a manageable hummocky rubble of boulders and moraines. It is doubtful...

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