Thursday 4 October 2018

Voices matter

Whispering wanker

Is Barry Gardiner’s voice silv’ry, slithery or silken? This debate was raised earlier on this blog below the line, and so was the state of the English language via Dawkins on Twitter.  

Unless there is something intrinsically wrong with Barry Gardiner’s vocal chords, the muted volume effect must be there for a purpose. ‘Sinister whispering wanker’, someone on Guido called him.

The Scottish burr is normally an asset (for clarity of diction think BBC announcer Susan Rae) and your normal Scottish and Irish speaker will enunciate that  “wh” gently as if lightly puffing away a feather. However, the whoosh of Barry Gardiner’s ‘whh’ is expelled forcefully, as if to snuff out a candle, and each word is articulated with pained precision; a meaningful pause separates each one, allowing time for the profundity of his message to sink in because the audience is a bit thick.


The ’t’ sound.

Of course, most Labour MPs habitually use the glottal stop as well as the silent ’t’ at the end of a word. Take Faiza Shaheen on Politics Live. Yes, do.

A bizarre perversion of the missing ’t' occurs in the accent spoken by folks that hail from the region somewhere up north, (wherever it is that Michelle Dewberry comes from) (Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire. )

'T' gone awry

Do you watch The Pledge?  I’m not worried about the weird vowels, but those ’t’ endings are fascinating. See how the final ’t’ has gone awry when Michelle Dewberry articulates the word “want”. It comes out as “won-ugh” (That’s ‘won’ as in ‘wonky’, and not as in wonderful.) I rather like Michelle Dewberry’s carefully enunciated delivery but that distorted  ’t’ thing is mad.

The worst voice abomination is vocal-fry aka throat-fry. It’s really really, like, annoying, but as it’s largely American (unless we follow the Kardashians) we don’t have to put up with it so much. There’s also that two-tone thing that some people have all the time, even when they’re not suffering from tonsillitis or laryngitis. There’s probably a medical name for it, but you hear it as a kind of duet as if two voices of a slightly different pitch are speaking at once; a cappella - harmonising in unison.

Here we have Christine Blasey Ford. Her extreme vocal-fry voice and what’s known as “Valley Girl” manner sabotaged her testimony. For me at least, it completely undermined her credibility. 
Some people insist that they were profoundly moved by her testimony, but not I. Not #meToo. I bet they were motivated by PC. My motivation, on the other hand, may have been a tad political, but  I really think her trauma would be a lot more credible if she had actually been raped, and not merely “laughed at”. I’m not a ‘Trump firster’ and I wasn’t overly won over by Brett Kavanaugh either.

Just imagine being ambushed in a lift by a posse of sobbing sexual assault  ‘survivors’; Senator Flake is the most aptly named character in the whole pantomime.

Pitch for new BBC drama.

Jed Mercurio has sufficient material to base a six-part series on an FBI investigation into the inebriated sexually perverted antics of Ivy League undergraduate year-book alumni dating back to the days before radical misandry began in nineteen seventy-three (Between the introduction of the Contraceptive pill and the Beatles’ last LP.)  

The general idea will be that no-one will be able to make head nor tail of the plot, the cast or the outcome unless they consult the explanatory recap on the Guardian. The privilege of being guilty is reserved for the stale, pale white guy, and the lead character, based on Dr Ford, will be played by a mixed-race transgender actor who will do a pitch-perfect, Bafta-winning  performance, recreating the vocal fry and “Valley-girl” mannerisms, which will later prove to have been mimed and covertly voiced by a white, voice-gymnast who will hire eminent QC Michael Mansfield to sue the BBC for ‘uman rights.

Jason Farrell will appear in a cameo performance as ‘himself’ interviewing a BAME suspect, introduced purely as a ‘double-bluff’ red-herring. (BAMEs are inherently innocent. Fact.)
Rob Burley and Gabriel Gatehouse will tune in for that bit, but no-one else will be watching TV by then.

Who needs elocution?


Well, one person has charmed us all with his rich, olden-day voice. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. We do still value a nice voice. Mellifluous, meaning sweet-sounding, honeyed, mellow and dulcet. Having an attractive voice used to be a primary requisite for the radio, and perhaps a secondary requisite for TV. 

Now, anything goes. The more incomprehensible and unintelligible the accent and diction the better. Suffering from one of the most serious cases of fashion victimhood on the box, that and her slurred, nasal, adenoidal diction and harsh-toned voice hasn’t held Kirsty Wark back.  Voice like a bark. Woof! Ruff! A contender for next chair-person of Question Time.

where did you get that dress


  1. Geoffery Cox's voice is surely more stentorian than mellifluous: booming and brassy. We could tow him into the Channel and use him as a fog horn.

    1. Yes, but he has the ability to make the most feeble of arguments sound beguiling - I had to keep reminding myself that what he kept calling 'Brexit' was, in fact, merely Chequers. I wonder how many guilty men/women (etc) have gone free or vice versa as a result of his pleading. Anyway, MB, as you know, Brexit will mean the end of trade with Europe, so there'll be no need for foghorns in the Channel.

      Re: Sue's 'take' on Dr Ford, I agree - she came across like a cross between Minnie Mouse (with laryngitis) & Shirley Temple; made me think of Bette Davis in 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?' - creepy! I'd never heard of vocal-fry until Sue mentioned it, but one thing is certain: any teacher/lecturer who taught in that strangulated little voice would be luck to get through a morning without losing it - the voice has to have been assumed for the occasion.

    2. "Anyway, MB, as you know, Brexit will mean the end of trade with Europe..." According to the BBC it will mean the end of civilisation as we know it.

  2. There is something so tense and lacking in self-assurance about valley girl speak. Vocal fry is a perfect description. The best I could come up with was a constriction in the back of the throat. It reminds me of that other speech phenomenon, upspeak in which the last word of a sentence rises in tone turning a statement into a question, as if the speaker is always asking the listener’s approval. Valley girl speak, by inserting like into every sentence is unable to express anything directly. I am like, happy - in other words, I am too unsure of your reaction to admit to actually being happy. Even worse: I was, like, followed by a noise or a gesture. Unfortunately this particular peculiarity has crossed the Atlantic. How strange that these young women choose to project themselves as the exact opposite of the strong confident women they would have us believe they are. Is this an extension of victim culture? I am, by the way very much in favour of young women being confident and articulate.

    I find it hard to comment on the Ford/Kavanaugh case, as like Sue I found the behaviour of both parties unconvincing and rather odd. Paradoxically, it seems that it might work out better for Trump if Kavanaugh was not appointed, but what do I know about the complexities of American politics.

  3. Michelle Dewberry comes from Brandsholme, a large council estate built in the 60s to be a new town but without anything that would make it anything but a large council estate. Many of the people living there never even make it into the centre of Hull - some 5 miles away. Those who live there, or even make an escape, have a very particular way of speaking - how they think 'posh' sounds. They don't get it right. I haven't heard The Pledge, so I am only imagining how Dewberry sounds but can guess. Haven't heard her speak on tv/radio for some time but that 'posh' east Hull accent was very evident to those of us familiar with it.


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