Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

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Bureau des Étrangers
I remember someone once trying to convince me that the reason Modigliani painted his subjects elongated was that he had a neurological condition that made him see everything that way. "But in that case," I spluttered, "he'd have seen his own portraits as even more elongated, and they'd have looked odd to him." I remember being quite unable to convey this point effectively.

Then there was the king of Spain - was it Ferdinand? - who was said to have had a speech impediment, and so begun the "lisping" pronunciation that Spanish appears to have to Anglophone ears. In a kind of Emperor's New Clothes act of collective sycophancy, all his courtiers were said to have begun affecting his way of saying "s", and so the fashion caught on. But even if this didn't have the unmistakable taste of codswallop for other reasons, who would have been brave enough to be the first person to appear before the king, speaking in lisping imitation of him?

For all that, when I hear that not only must you take off your shoes and change into slippers when you enter a Japanese house (fair enough), but that you must also change into different slippers when you enter the bathroom (okay...), and take off your slippers altogether when you enter a room with tatami mats - oh, and the shoes you took off at the beginning? They must always be placed with the toes pointing towards the front door - then, I begin to wonder whether some Heian emperor wasn't just a wee bit obsessive-compulsive. Except, of course, that there are practical reasons for all these things - and that someone from another culture might draw the same conclusion from, say, that British obsession with queues. From the outside, we're all as strange as fuck (and, speaking for myself, from the inside too).

I've read that the clipped tones of the English upper classes are the result of courtiers copying the German accents of the early Hanoverian kings.

It's certainly more plausible than the Spanish example, but evidence would be nice!

Vocal fry seems relevant.

Hi, I'm Ishmael, and I'll be your narrator for today?

What happens when vocal fry meets uptalk, I wonder?

(Deleted comment)
That certainly exists. It's said that Walter Ralegh spoke with a thick Devon accent: perhaps we have him, rather than Robert Newton, to thank for Talk Like a Pirate Day?

I've heard the Modigliani story told about El Greco, and in that version it wasn't neurological problems, it was ophthalmic, but it's been around for a long time. Among other places, I think I've seen it mentioned in one of Ernst Gombrich's books, maybe Art and Illusion.

It's entirely possible I may be misremembering: I certainly read Art and Illusion at some point. The flaw in the idea still applies, either way.

(no subject) - poliphilo, 2013-10-10 08:15 am (UTC)(Expand)
The 'what?' once so common among the aristocracy was a result of George II's somewhat dodgy attempts at English (George I never bothered trying).

I always take off my outdoor footwear and change into slippers in this English household!

The 'what?' once so common among the aristocracy was a result of George II's somewhat dodgy attempts at English.

Do we have any evidence for that?

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(no subject) - cmcmck, 2013-10-09 02:58 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-10-09 04:19 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2013-10-09 07:56 pm (UTC)(Expand)
ahaha oh man that Japanese system of things makes so much practical sense to me, though. bathrooms are wet and dirty! it's easier if the toes point towards the front door so when you go out you can just step into them!


maybe I'm secretly the reincarnation of whoever came up with this system,

It's certainly possible to provide these practices with rational justifications. Not so easy to know which came first!

(no subject) - forochel, 2013-10-12 08:50 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-10-12 08:57 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - rachelmanija, 2013-10-09 04:55 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-10-09 04:57 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - rachelmanija, 2013-10-09 05:03 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-10-09 05:05 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - forochel, 2013-10-12 08:49 am (UTC)(Expand)
I once had something to say about learning Japanese customs by watching Kurosawa films, including about shoes.

The question of courtiers imitating their masters' speech leads me inevitably to thoughts of John Cleese's centurion being forced to imitate Michael Palin's Pontius Pilate, who otherwise cannot understand him.

'Wodger and Wodowick?' I am picturing Hugh Laurie in Blackadder, doing the 'What what?'

These are just the sorts of things I wonder about too. I think the point about the Spanish lisp is a good one.

Speaking of accents and verbal ticks, I attended a training run by someone in our Norwich office whose exact accent I couldn't pin down -- vaguely northwards of London was the best I could get. One marker I caught, though, was a frequent habit of using a sentence-final "yeah" in almost exactly the same way declarative sentence-final "yo" is used in Japanese. Would that be a regional marker or a more general British usage?

---L.

It's pretty common among the young, but definitely more in the south-east, and I'd guess Essex might be a particular hot-spot. From my observation (which isn't that close) I think "yeah" used in that way is slowly taking over from "innit" and "know-what-I-mean", but I may be confusing my sub-cultures.

(no subject) - lnhammer, 2013-10-09 04:37 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ethelmay, 2013-10-09 06:30 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2013-10-09 07:58 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - lnhammer, 2013-10-10 12:14 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - eglantine_br, 2013-10-10 02:43 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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