The vexed question of uniformity and the ways in which how we use the vernacular is being influenced - or not - by the broadcast and electronic media.
Examples quoted throughout Voices of Only Fools and Horses ('cushty' - Romany word for 'good' taken up by Del Boy and friends and now a major slang term); Big Brother (we measure the effect of Jade Goody on the speech of the nation - mingin' is the standard term amongst the young for anything or anyone unattractive or unpleasant), and of course the intonation patterns such as Upspeak (attrib to Neighbours) which may just be waning.
There are many instances cited of words used and misused in soaps ('hanging' in Coronation Street - 'they said hanging: it should be 'anging') and the ubiquity of words like knackered, chuffed and loaded in the broader community and munter and dog and many others can be ascribed to a certain media-driven uniformity...The recent huge mainstream success of Asian comedies like Goodness Gracious Me and the Kumars have meant that a number of new subcontinental elements have become part of the national vernacular.
This Asian influence has other major impacts on the mass language - through inter-community shared events like the Mela, through intermarriage and major cross-cultural phenomena like Bollywood and bhangra - dissemination on radio TV and cinema screen is beginning to put yet another linguistic element into a speech style that goes a long way beyond the West Midlands, Lancashire or Southall. The experiences of the North Leeds group of second generation Indians is very strong here - and their fears not for old English dialect which they have embraced, but for their indigenous culture which they are sad to be losing.
To what extent is this likely to affect the overall health of regional variation? What components will resist, adapt or re-emerge from this media soup? Is the fact that communication is regularly and routinely international in chatrooms and discussion fora a cause of spreading uniformity or of emphasising an awareness of difference?
Bestselling children's writer and poet Michael Rosen has written a specially commissioned verse about the myriad forms our current vernacular takes. Follow this link to read the poem.
Dermot Murnaghan has spent most of his career in broadcast journalism. Before joining the BBC, he spent more than a decade fronting ITV's national news bulletins from London. He joined the BBC in the Autumn of 2002, becoming Breakfast's main presenter immediately Read Dermot's article on Word 4 Word