Status through language

Films sometimes capture a truth about us in an instantaneous vignette. I recall an old Peter Sellers British movie in which he played a Communist union official being interviewed on television. Being very aware of the British class system and struggling against it, he yet felt compelled to conform, so he pronounced “situation” as “situa-tee-own”, as if the ti- to sh- transformation were “slurring” and thus a mark of the inherent laziness of the working class. No one of his own class were secure enough in their own speech to tell him how to pronounce the word and those who knew how to pronounce it were unsympathetic. This is how language power is manipulated.

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