or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, May 21, 2006

So Red The Raise

Jim watches "Doctor Who" every week, and along with it a sort of making-of show called "Doctor Who Confidential". Just now he turned to me and asked, "What dialect of British would pronounce 'Rose' like 'raise'? Because the actress who plays Rose just pronounced the name of her own character like that, and I had to listen to it twice before I knew what she was talking about."

As it turns out, I had encountered that pronunciation once before: in a savage satirical cartoon called "Maggie's Farm", devoted to trashing the political rule of Margaret Thatcher and the various excesses of Britain from 1979 onward. I can never predict what's going to stick in my head--who can?--but I vividly remember a panel showing Queen Elizabeth ordering "ferret orff the bane", with "bone' being pronounced "bane'--exactly the vowel change Jim was talking about. What I couldn't figure out, though, was whether it was an honestly upper-class pronunciation (doubtful, given the pronunciation of "off" as "orff") or cartoonist Steve Bell putting a deliberately lower-class locution into the Queen's mouth.

Turns out it's the latter. That vowel, as nearly as I can tell, came from northern Scotland and migrated into some British dialects. Billie Piper, the actress who plays Rose*, comes from the county of Wiltshire, which does have a regional accent different from standard, or Received, British English pronunciation.


I'd do a lot more research on this but I'm in kind of a rush. I'm taking a week off for some R&R and I've got things to do, but I'll be back next Sunday. In the meantime, I just learned (after looking up "bone", among other things), that "bonfire" has nothing to with French "bon", "good"; it's actually derived, it seems, from "bone-fire", from the Celtic ritual of burning piles of animal bones to ward off evil spirits. Who knew?

* By an interesting coincidence, today's posting to my other blog is also about roses.


Blogger Frank said...

I believe Billie Piper is doing a South London accent as Rose. Whether or not she does it well, or whether that is the source of that pronunciation of the character's name, I'm not enough of a dialectitian to say.

Monday, May 22, 2006 5:52:00 PM  

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