(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, April 28.)
IT WON’T surprise anyone to hear that my periodic grizzling about the ghastly voices of female broadcasters has had zero effect. If anything, things have got worse.
On my local radio station I hear a young woman announcer who sounds as if she has just inhaled helium. Even Radio New Zealand, the last citadel of correct pronunciation, has fallen to the Barbarians. There are female reporters on the state-owned radio network who would make Lyn of Tawa sound like the Queen.
I recently heard a female RNZ journalist report that a district howth board had wowcomed a crackdown on teenage drinkers. And did you know the Labour Party is led by someone named Full Goff?
Female broadcasters were once regarded as exemplars of proper speech, but in a bizarre upending of the norm, they now talk in a wince-inducing kay-way accent far worse than anything heard on the streets.
Radio New Zealand recently carried a detailed report about something called tullycommunications and a TV item said shullfish were threatened by an oil spill. “A” sounds get mangled too, as evidenced by a reference on radio to an ullah-carte menu.
Reporters are also industriously adding extra syllables to words. A fire on the North Shorwah burned for several ouwers and Lower Hutt has evidently acquired a new suburb called Bowelmont.
It’s almost a relief to report that the phenomenon is not unique to New Zealand. Australian political journalist Kerry-Anne Walsh, who does a weekly report from Canberra on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report, has a voice that would make a flock of galahs sound melodious.
I have heard it argued that none of this matters as long as we can understand what people are saying, to which my response is twofold. First, it’s physically painful to listen to some of these awful voices torturing the language; and second, it’s getting to the point where we can’t understand them.
It’s only a matter of time before we’ll need subtitles on the TV news bulletins to explain what some female journalists and newsreaders are saying.
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IT MUST BE distressing to be British these days.
This once-great country seems trapped in an inexorable downward spiral exemplified by recent media feeding frenzies over supposed teenage father Alfie Patten, tragic junkie-singer Amy Whitehouse and Jade Goody, the former Big Brother “star” (for want of a better word) who, in the final throes of cancer, married her criminal sweetheart in a nuptials ceremony that touched off a bidding war by the loathsome British tabloids.
Its trashy pop culture aside, British society has been transformed by mass migration and is trapped in a mire of political correctness enforced by the ever more intrusive agencies of a busybody state.
The paradox of the modern multicultural Britain is that many immigrants seem sullenly hostile to their host country and some even wish to destroy it. The Conservative Party politician Enoch Powell, whose career was destroyed by the hysterical reaction to the so-called “rivers of blood” speech he gave in 1968 about the dangers of immigration, can now be seen as something of a prophet.
You can scarcely blame tens of thousands of Brits for voting with their feet and moving to continental Europe, where at least the weather is better. They must feel that the Britain of today is unrecognisable as the country they grew up in.
Britain’s slide has been chronicled with merciless clarity by commentators such as Theodore Dalrymple and Rod Liddle, contributors to The Spectator, whose contempt for those who have brought their country to this point is withering.
Ironically, The Spectator itself is emblematic of Britain’s decline. Once an outlet for some of Britain’s sharpest commentary, it has increasingly been taken over in recent years by braying, self-promoting toffs and compulsive name-droppers whose egos outweigh their talents.
* * *
EVER noticed how many people these days give their occupation as “writer”?
One might think that to earn that description, you’d need to demonstrate some history of published work. But many of the people who call themselves writers have no credentials beyond having once attended a writing course.
People don’t describe themselves as plumbers because they once changed a tap washer and they don’t claim to be teachers just because they occasionally help the kids with their homework. By the same token, isn’t it bit pretentious to call yourself a writer on the strength of something you once shared with the other members of your short-story writing class?
I make an exception for an old friend who recently gave me a copy of his business card, which describes him as a “Writer – internationally unknown”.