Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 16:03:26 -0400
From: Wendalyn Nichols
Subject: Re: Estuary English

"Estuary English" is broader than merely London, which after all has its
own distinct geographical variations even within its borders. It refers to
the Thames Estuary, and according to who's writing the article about it,
can include the flat, less regionally marked pronunciation that is being
adopted by a large number of Labour government ministers, a watered-down
Cockney accent, or most of Essex (drawing the line at those who say
"haitch" for the sound they drop at the beginnings of words). Blair's
accent is that of a thoroughgoingly middle-class grammar-school boy, and
not strongly Estuary at all. Major (who hails from Brixton) sounded more
Estuary, and nasally so, before he tried cosmetic surgery on his accent -
vowels more plummy, but that nasal quality couldn't be resculpted.
Thatcher was much more successful at accent and tone reconstruction,
dropping her voice by about an octave.

Lord Quirk is indeed Professor Sir Randolf Quirk, author of, erm, a
gazillion grammar books.

Beverly Flanigan on 06/18/98 02:31:10 PM

Please respond to American Dialect Society

cc: (bcc: Wendalyn Nichols/Trade/RandomHouse)
Subject: Re: Estuary English

I haven't read the article yet, but I recall hearing that John Major was
also criticized/laughed at/mocked for affecting RP. Since only 3-4% of all
Britons are native speakers of RP, I suppose Londoners of some
sociopolitical weight have had to come up with a reasonable substitute to
cover their own dialectal variation, hence Estuary English--ugh, what a
label. I assume Lord Quirk is as in Quirk, Greenbaum, et al.?

At 09:07 AM 6/18/98 -0500, you wrote:
>There's an article in today's New York Times discussing Tony Blair's
>newly-affected accent. It's being described as "Estuary English."
>You'll need to register for a free logon and password, if you don't have
>Note near the end of the piece the member of the House of Lords and
>linguist, Lord Quirk.
>Grant Barrett