05 February, 2011
Who'd a thowt it?
The BBC's gradual relaxation over the past 50 years or so of its strict requirements for plum-in-the-mouth, poker-up-the-arse RP accents from its news and continuity announcers is generally welcome. Who would wish to be deprived of the soothing soupçon-of-Ulster tones of la Clugston, for example?
But whatever Neil's other doubtless sterling qualities, his employment as a continuity announcer on Radio 4 and the World Service is a step too far. His vowels are eccentric and unpredictable and his prosody, both in terms of intonation and stress, is all over the shop. Listening to Neil is like straining to understand one of those foreign interviewees who insist on speaking very hesitant English over a dismal telephone line. Which is tolerable in such a case but not for a professional continuity announcer. It really does put you off the following programme.
An honourable mention should also go to Sue Montgomery. Radio 4 listeners may be unfamiliar with Sue, as she works exclusively (as far as I am aware) on the World Service. Sue has a fairly RP accent with one spectacularly irritating feature. She routinely drops the pitch of her voice sharply at the end of each declarative sentence, producing a sort of sultry effect which I can best describe as a sort of poor woman's Fenella Fielding impersonation. It's excruciating, and generally has the same effect on me as the sig tune of The Archers, namely an unwontedly athletic dive for the off switch.
Right then. I'm off to practice my best ee-bah-goom 'ell-as-like accent on any unsuspecting foreigners I can find up in that there London. I find the most effective weapon is a combination of a Deep Hill-Lancashire accent with a vocabulary liberally sprinkled with Cockney Rhyming Slang. Oh, and when giving directions and information to particularly bumptious American tourists, always insist on using metric measures.
— "The way to Oxford? Yes, you can catch a train from Paddington Station."
— "Pardon me?"
— "Oh, you mean Oxford Street? Yes, it's about a kilometre in that direction."
I felt quite seasick myself by the end of it. He should no more be announcing on R4 than Cheryl Cole or Rab C. Nesbitt.