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Affected speech impediments: is this a uniquely English phenomenon?

December 14, 2017 - 15:15 -- Admin

Last night, having read a fantastic essay (pdf) by the great historian of revolutionary and pre-revolutionary America Bernard Bailyn, I made my way to the lecture series in honour of Isaiah Berlin where there were plenty more interesting lectures. In any event I’ve known of J.G.A Pocock since I studied early modern European and British History so I bookmarked his lecture to listen to as I went to sleep. He’s a very thoughtful fellow, but until then I had thought that the extraordinary speech impediment that Antoine has in the wonderful TV series of Brideshead Revisited from 1981 was rather amplified for dramatic effect.

But no. That speech impediment really does exist in the wild – at least for as long as JGA Pocock remains in the wild. Which leads me to my question. This is a quite obviously affected speech impediment, and a particularly ridiculous one. I found this one so intrusive and so irritating in the Pocock lecture I couldn’t bear the dissonance it produced listening to it and stopped listening. Fortunately the lecture is also recorded in print if I need to find out what’s in it.

A more common affected speech impediment is the one in which “r”s are pronounced as “w”s as is the case with Fwank Muir on the old BBC program My Word and Dave Edmunds who is co-pwesenter on Philosophy Bites. Anyway the thing is that these speech impediments don’t turn up in other versions of English. They don’t turn up in Australian, Irish, Scottish, American or New Zealand English – at least to my knowledge.

Is this right or am I missing something? Are there any learned speech impediments in Australian or other Englishs? And are there other affected speech impediments in English English? And what FFS is going on?