29 July, 2011


Out of the mouths of...

... babes and non-native speakers.

I was half-listening, as is my custom, to BBC Radio 4 as a Beebwallah was busily voxpopping indigenous Dutch people in one of the more "multicultural" corners of the Netherlands. The natives were unambiguously forthcoming about their attitudes to their largely Moroccan neighbours.

For balance, the programme moved on to interview some chap who was involved in improving "community relations". A sort of political social worker, if you will.

There are basically two reactions from the Decent and Righteous when faced with people who express anti-immigrant sentiments.

One is to loathe them unequivocally as racist monsters to be shunned or, preferably, persecuted.

The other is to regard them as ignorant and childlike beings who need to be engaged with gently and cured of their irrational fear of the Other.

Our man was clearly of the latter persuasion and organized open discussions with the indigenous riff-raff, bravely and rationally engaging their racist bile in a non-confrontational manner. So we were told, anyway.

My experience of the Dutch is that very many of them speak pretty good English — for which I am duly grateful, their native language gives me a sore throat — but that their English is generally not quite as good as they think it is. There is a not always merited cockiness in their self-perceived command of idiomatic colloquial English which I didn't hear, for example, from the English-speaking Norwegians who were voxpopped over the past week about you-know-who.

So I wonder if our man quite understood the exact nuance when he said,
"We need to listen to what you might call "white trash".
Always best to lay thi cards on t'table and speak thi mind, lad, but ah reckon tha might a stook thi foot i' thi' gob theer.


Oh, beautiful! :D

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