I recently watched John le Carre’s “Tinker Tailor …” rented on a DVD. It had one feature that had me glued to it. It was made some time back when the BBC had very strict standards for voice.
I guess the standards came in because of the variety and complexity of regional accents among the ‘lower classes’ and an irresistible desire to be un-understandable by some of them others. To have a standard, well-modulated voice, no major inflections, genteel and proper was the aim. They succeeded, everyone could understand BBC English, even if the Queen’s speech broadcast on the BBC was sometimes a bit difficult to understand at first, she soon caught on and learned it too.
The problem with that was when there was more than one talking, they all sounded the same. And so it was for the DVDs. A series of 8 episodes. And I had to WATCH carefully all the time. If my visual attention strayed at all I couldn’t work out who on earth was talking.
That led me to musing (as is my wont at inappropriate moments) about the differences in English, the regional differences that sometimes almost make up a whole new language. The vastness of it (when playing Scrabble online at least). The sheer number of terms to be conveyed. And then we add the differences in speech patterns. Goodness, how on earth do we communicate with each other?
I must say I’m very glad that radio and TV and movies now allow more accents and personal variations, individualities that make identification an easier process. I thought this doing some ironing while watching TV. If everyone sounded the same I’d never be able to do both of those things at the same time.