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She Liked the Cut of My Jibber-Jabber

Someone once complimented me on the way I talk. “I like the way you talk.” She said.

I was, of course, pleased. My ego swelled a fraction (as one’s ego does when a compliment is paid). It wasn’t the pitch or timbre of my voice, you understand. Nor was it to do with accent. It was the language, and perhaps to some degree the intonation. In other words, she liked the cut of my jibber-jabber.

This makes sense, given that I’m a very word-conscious person and a writer. But what I find interesting is that not everyone is actually conscious of speech style. They just don’t notice it; just don’t seem to sense it at all.

I’m not sure which is the better way to be, really. It’s no bed of roses being very conscious of speech style the way I am, I can tell you. Sure, it may bring the odd compliment (…or just one compliment, if truth be told), but it also has its disadvantages. And these are extreme!

For instance, I can’t stand the majority of contemporary speech. And I don’t just mean the rubbish on TV or the nonsense you hear in the ad breaks. It goes without saying that this is nearly all junk. That’s a given. No, I find more serious things intolerable too.

Take the podcasts from The Spectator and The Economist, for example. I tried listening to some of these a while ago and just couldn’t stand it. Now these are solid, traditional publications. You can’t get much more established! And I don’t fare much better with Radio 3. They’re not all bad, but some of the presenters on there drive me up the wall!

The biggest issue I have is the rising or questioning intonation, which is very old news but is now absolutely everywhere. Fair enough, it’s the natural Aussie way of speaking, hence also called antipodean intonation. That’s fine; I don’t mind it on Aussies. But I don’t like it here. I’m not sure how it took root in this country. I honestly think it might have come in through Neighbours and Home and Away in the '90s! I’m not sure about that. It seems a slightly ridiculous suggestion in some ways, but then TV and film is an extraordinary force when it comes to transferring this sort of cultural stuff.

And, of course, I detest the modern use of “like”. Again, old news here, but it’s no less annoying for that. I think this use of like goes back to Californian surfers in the '60s and '70s. It was then taken on by Valley Girls in the '80s/'90s and finally moved into the UK in, I believe, the early noughties.

Vocab is another issue I have; although this isn’t always annoying. Sometimes it’s amusing. I always enjoy it when people use words that are passé. I saw a video of a well-known critic the other day, someone in her late 60s, and she used the word “groovy”. It was totally without irony or any intentional allusion to the past. And then there are people of around my own age who use “wicked”. I remember when wicked was all the rage – during my childhood in the '90s (at the same time that Neighbours was working its dark magic).

I do personally use “cool” a lot. Although I’m not sure I like it very much, really. And, believe it or not, I have even occasionally used the word “sick” when talking to certain friends. I hate to admit that and I think it’s ridiculous! But there it is.

So what exactly am I saying here? Well, I don’t know, really. I do know how I’m saying it though!


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