The Queen’s English?

‘Brexit Day,’ as some are calling it, was just over a week ago. On that day, these signs were stuck on doors of all 15 floors of a residential building in Norwich, in the east of England:

Brexit Day poster

Aside from the blatant racism, which I don’t mean to diminish or trivialise, I have several linguistic points to make. Not in any particular order.

What is the Queen’s English? For the spoken language, which the moron who wrote this poster appears to be obsessed with, the Queen speaks RP (Received Pronunciation). It’s an accent of English with no regional associations. That’s because it’s a ‘social accent’ taught in certain private schools and reinforced in the homes and social circles of the upper classes. It’s an accent that clips its vowels and makes toast sound like taste. Today RP is spoken by roughly 2% of the British population. I suspect that the cretin who wrote this poster does not speak the Queen’s English.

The British Library website has 77 recordings of different accents and dialects of English from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (https://www.bl.uk/british-accents-and-dialects). I wonder how many of these British-English accents would be fully understood by the imbecile who wrote this poster.

English is not the only native language of Britain. There’s Welsh, Scots, Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Cornish to name a few. And the flipside of this – Britain is not the only country where English is spoken as a native or official language. If the idiot who wrote this poster wants only people whose ‘mother tongue’ is English to live in Britain, he or she would appear to be perfectly fine with people from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Liberia, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea – among others.

The ignoramus who wrote this poster has a problem with people who speak foreign languages. Don’t get me started. During this week that saw Britain enter another dark age, the polymath George Steiner passed away at the age of 90. Steiner was trilingual, speaking French, German and English, and he once described his mother as ‘a Viennese grande dame who used to begin a sentence in one language and finish it in another without even noticing.’ Brexit hasn’t really happened yet – we’re in a transition period – yet, I’m already feeling nostalgic.

Steiner
Professor George Steiner

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