LANCASTER, OH - Tallmadge Elementary in Lancaster, Ohio is a very normal Midwestern grade school: there's a flag pole, kids running around on the playground, a cafeteria that smells a little like Johnny-Marzetti and a whole generation of children learning the Queen's English. And when I say Queen's English, I mean with the British accent, right-o!
Harken Stackmore is the 3rd grade English teacher and teaches the children Received Pronunciation or as you and I might call it, British Accent English. (Read Mr. Stackmore's quotes with a British accent for full effect.) "The children are marvelous pupils and have accepted learning proper English not only in a grammatical sense, but with a British flair as well." When asked why teach and enforce a British accent, Mr. Stackmore was very clear, "A British accent sounds more intelligent that the standard American accent. These Midwesterns run their e's and o's together and add extra syllables where none should exist. I'm not only making them smarter… I'm making them sound smarter."
Principal Harvey Rogers agrees with Harken Stackmore, "When I watch an infomercial on the T.V., I tend to think the British people sound smarter. I'm more likely to buy from one or vote on American Idol for whoever the British person says to." When the program started, Principal Rogers was a bit doubtful, "I didn't think it was gonna work, but when I heard a nine year old girl talking in an accent about her 'pleats and whatnot' I was sold."
Local parents are still a little unsure. Marion Rents' son, Bill, is in the fourth grade and into his second year of British English, "Bill says stuff and I can't understand him sometimes. Of course, before the class, he said a lot of stuff I didn't understand much neither." Her husband was a little less critical, "He sounds like a military officer from the movies. I think it's cool." Bill did not have much to say except, "I like it. I like it a lot."
Mr. Stackmore teaches his style of Queen's English in three parts. He explained, "Part one involves re-learning pronunciation of the alphabet. This is accomplished by watching the film 'Mary Poppins' over and again. Part two is sub-divided into common British phrases and learning how to be embarrassed easily. Part three is comprised of slang, cockney insults and talking about how much better we British are than the rest of the world."
While Mr. Stackmore continues his classes and guiding the other teachers on British pronunciation and gestures, he hopes that someday his methods will spread throughout Ohio and the United States, "The colonies could use a good verbal scrubbing. And I've got the oratory brush to do it. Look, I have no choice but to acknowledge Britain's diminished status in the world. But, I'm trying to do my part for Queen and country. While we Brits can no longer say 'The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire,' I'm hoping that we can at least say that 'The Sun Never Sets on the British Accent.' Cheerio, Governor."
I find this particularly funny because there are a number of linguists who assert that the English accent of Shakespeare and Elizabeth I's time was actually more similar to the accent of 21st century America than it is to the accent of modern England.
Actually Shakespearean English accents were far nearer Northern English.
The problem the Americans seem to have is that the range of English accents and dialects of English across the UK is far greater than the range of accents in the US.
Don't forget that the rather mild Scottish accent emulated by Mel Gibson in 'Braveheart' was considered so exotic in America that there were subtitled screenings.
I'd recommend trying to find any YouTube videos posted by people from the following areas, just because they're some of the most different:
After a couple of these you realise that Received Pronunciation really originates from the Home Counties and is barely "English" (Demonym rather than the Language), let alone "British"!
Post a Comment