On Now : Afternoon Drama
Golden Years - 2. Monty Street, Mansfield
BBC Radio 4
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Stephen Fry's idiosyncratic meander along the byways of English takes him into dangerous territory: Language and Class. Is it still the contentious issue it used to be?

In the Nineteen Fifties a famous distinction was drawn between what came to be called "U" and "Non-U" words, expressions and pronunciations that were supposed to give a pretty clear indication as to which class the speaker belonged. That's all old hat now surely? Or are there still differences between the way the social classes speak, and are perceived?

Once the social boundaries were very clear. Now they seem a lot more porous. So have we changed the way we speak to cope with social changes? The answer - according to experts in the programme seems to be "yes, but not as much as you might think".

With the help of a socio-linguist, a waspish columnist, a professional voice coach and Yorkshire poet Ian Macmillan, Stephen looks at the history of class and speech, and finds that changes have been subtle. Yet for many old tribalisms remain.

Macmillan helps show how the issues always seem to be debated in a metropolitan context. They take on a very different hue if seen from elsewhere.

Producer: Ian Gardhouse
A Testbed Production for BBC Radio 4.

28 minutes

Last on

Mon 1 Aug 2011 21:30

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