Saturday 13 February 2016

Misunderstandings 4

Why is a "plummy voice" posh? Because posh people speak as if they had a plum in their mouth. They may speak with "cut glass" tones because they are grand enough to use genuine Waterford faceted crystal, cut with a wheel.

This doesn’t mean speaking with the purple plumminess of the late, great Brian Sewell. Clare Foges, Times October 2015

Margo played wonderfully by Penelope Keith with a mouthful of plum stones. (Daily Mail May 4 2012)

If you want to know, (s)he said, in a pureed-plum voice), Bourne trained at the Central School... (Adam Mars Jones, London Review of Books)

Tom Hiddleston is the latest plummy actor to go topless. (Times,  2016)

Regional and working class accents are more commonly found, and the tone and timbre of  ‘higher-class’ accents (also known as the Queen’s English) are less desired. ( “The Queen’s English” is just an ironic way of referring to the language. It doesn’t refer to an accent or to a dialect.)


Cut glass is faceted like a diamond. It’s expensive, but you can get a cheap, moulded imitation. If you speak in cut-glass tones that just means you’re posh – it has nothing to do with how your voice sounds. Many misunderstandings arise.

With breathy pauses between words and clipped, cut-glass consonants, Blunt introduced one maudlin dirge after another. (Observer, March 19 2006)

The stagestruck cockney teenager learned cut-glass vowels at the Central School of Speech and Drama. (Guardian, Dec 5 2005)

Diana Mosley has gone down in history as the cutglass blonde in thrall to the Führer. (Observer, 2005)

Simon Brett in The Penultimate Chance Saloon thinks cut glass is engraved glass.

Children with crystal accents. (Times, 2008)

A smooth-talking debating society graduate with bone-china vowels. (Lauren Laverne, 2014)

She speaks and it’s like the finest glass you can imagine breaking. (Intruder Michael Fagan on the Queen)

The heroine of Julian Fellowes’ interactive appbook or whatever it is “has a 'cut-glass set' to her mouth.”

Not the suave chain-smoker who drinks whiskey from die-cut glasses... (Seaneen Molloy-Vaughan)

Most of the accents one picks up beside the haha sound as if they were hand-fashioned in a crystal factory. (Guardian, 2006. A haha is a wide ditch that keeps animals and hoi polloi out of your garden.)

We want the beautiful arched eyebrows, the soft cupids bow, lengthy eyelashes and cheekbones you could cut glass on. (, 2011)

Kate Moss’s mother has cut-glass cheekbones. (ES magazine, March 31, 2006)

There are surely not two families in Camelot with that cheek bone gene. The actors Colin Morgan and Katie McGrath could chisel glass with theirs. (Andrew Billen, Times Sep 13 10) Is he thinking of "chiselled" features? You cut glass with a wheel, not a chisel.

the tin-hat brigade for the tin-foil hat brigade (Soldiers wore “tin hats” – metal helmets with brims – in WWI; those living in fear of infrared mind control by the Illuminati protect their skulls with tinfoil hats, reportedly.)

They’ve become a minority – often a majority! (Amanda Platell on Andrew Marr on young men committing suicide, October 2015. She used to be Conservative politician William Hague's press secretary.)

There's not a 180 degree difference between our Islam and ISIS's, there's a 360 degree difference. (Davutoğlu)

How can £27,990 be the UK average annual salary? That's fantasy money for most people. (@AlexPaknadel)

Sign of how far UKIPs star has waned that we've heard nothing from them on Greece. (Matt W ‏@Clavdivs1 Stars rise or fall; only moons wax and wane.)

Edinburgh was known as Auld Reekie because its smog was particularly smelly. (Reek is smoke in Scots – it just meant “Old Smokey”. Like calling London “the Smoke”.)

Commenters on Dear Jeremy read a snide comment that someone “needs a Bath chair” as “needs a bath”, and give advice on personal hygiene. (A Bath chair was a kind of Victorian wheelchair with a hood – originally used by invalids in Bath.)

“His nickname was “Sticky”, don’t you know!” A man on Heir Hunters comments on his uncle’s army nickname as if it was somehow posh. In the British Army, it was privates who had nicknames  like Nobby, Chalky or Dusty.

Goody Two-Shoes was not particularly good, or excessively pious. In her day, “Goody”, meant something like “Mrs”.

Agatha Christie was very much alive, striding over the world of British mystery like a cozy Colossus. (Passing Tramp blog The Colossus – a huge statue – straddles a harbour, one foot on each side. And a cosy Colossus? The mind boggles. From Shakespeare: "Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus." Bestriding means one foot on one bank, one foot on the other. It doesn’t mean “striding”.)

The Victorians weren’t great at expressing themselves, so the dress code was how they did it. (Cash in the Attic on mourning. The poetry-writing Victorians would be mortified.)

They’re in a win-win situation and you’re in a lose-lose situation. (Rip-Off Britain So that’s a win-lose situation?)

Arts and Crafts is the period between the wars, the transition between Art Deco and Art Nouveau. (Dickinson’s Real Deal It was a self-consciously handmade style from the 1880s-1900s, though it lingered on in the 30s in half-timbered suburbs, Jacobethan furniture, brass and copper.)

Why does pol-media complex still talk about women as some kind of weird species like a rarely spotted wombat? Hands up I've done it too. (Laura Kuenssberg The lesser spotted woodpecker is a smaller version of the spotted woodpecker. It doesn't mean "rarely seen".)

In December 2013, the curriculum and diversity manager of the Institute of Physics was quoted by the BBC: “Nearly half of the co-educational state-funded schools we looked at are actually doing worse than average”. The IoP’s director of education and science responded: “[This was] taken out of context, rather unfortunately, by the BBC.”

Did Richard Dawkins really complain that 50% of people are of below-average intelligence?

Yet, to a remarkable degree, these events have mostly passed over the radar of even educated Britons. (Independent April 2014 ("The range of radar is greater than the altitude that any airplane is capable of obtaining", says

More here, and links to the rest.

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