WOOLF’S VOICE.

From Dangerous Minds:

Virginia Woolf discusses words, language and writing in this the only surviving recording of her voice.
Originally broadcast for a programme entitled Words Fail Me, by BBC Radio, on April 29th, 1937. Woolf’s almost regal pronunciation can be heard reading her essay on “Craftsmanship,” which was later published in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942).
The transcript of this broadcast can be found here.

It’s somehow astonishing to hear her upper-class accent (though of course it makes sense); somehow one doesn’t expect a writer to sound like that. And after her eloquent and sensible remarks about words and their “need of change” (“It is because the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being many-sided, flashing first this way, then that…. And it is because of this complexity, this power to mean different things to different people, that they survive”), it is amusing to hear her say “one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty.” Now, of course, the period she’s lamenting is considered a high point of literature. The more things change…

Comments

  1. I’ve recently watched or listened to a few other recordings of major writers on YouTube. I was surprised how deeply southern Flannery O’Connor sounded when she read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” And Carson McCullers was amazing beyond belief.
    Then there was Dame Edith Sitwell – upper class but very precise, to the point, no BS, no pretense, no artistic rubbish.

  2. “Now, of course, the period she’s lamenting is considered a high point of literature. ”
    Dissatisfaction is the mother of innovation, and innovation is the source of freshness and life in an art.

  3. Andrej B. says:

    But Woolf wasn’t upper class, she was (upper-)middle class, and hers is, I would say, a typical middle-class RP accent of someone born in the 1880s. Also, it’s probably fair to say that in those days that was the social stratum that yielded most writers, so in a way that is precisely what we would expect a writer from that era and that place to sound.

  4. Yes, I was going to say the same as Andrej B.
    While we’re on the subject, I heartily recommend The Charleston Bulletin Supplements, from 1924-27, which has recently been published by The British Library, both for the comic writing by Mrs Woolf and for the outstanding illustrations by the teenaged Quentin Bell. I think it also gives a good idea of what she must have been like on holiday. The Guardian’s review and a gallery of some of the pictures can be found here (Amazon sells it much cheaper than the Guardian does).

  5. J.W. Brewer says:

    There was a LL post recently about a mysterious recording which may or may not be Walt Whitman circa 1890. I wonder if digitization / corpus-type linguistics have gotten to the point where a meaningful subset of the presumably reasonably large number of old audio recordings, including non-celebrities, have been organized and coded by year-of-recording/year-of-birth-of-speaker/speaker’s-regional-and-class-background etc. such that you can do meaningful corpus-like research on how accents have changed over time, without worrying that you’re overgeneralizing from a single idiosyncratic datapoint. I recently heard on the radio excerpts from an interview conducted with H.L. Mencken (born 1880′s – interview probably 1940 or later), and there were a bunch of little quirks of his pronunciation that strongly reminded me of the way my maternal grandfather (born 1903) talked.

  6. But Woolf wasn’t upper class, she was (upper-)middle class, and hers is, I would say, a typical middle-class RP accent of someone born in the 1880s.
    Fair enough. To an ignorant Yank, it sounds upper-class. Go ahead, mock us, we’re used to it.

  7. The key points are that RP is a middle-class accent, and that it’s innovative: upper- and lower-class accents have (or had in Woolf’s day) more in common with each other than either had with RP.

  8. dearieme says:

    It’s the sort of voice that used to issue regularly from the wireless whenIwasbutalad. So rarely did such voices say anything of the least interest that I came to associate them with dull dogs; it was only when I got to university that I learnt that they weren’t all dull. A friend of mine used to refer to “Oh God, I’m so fucking bored” accents.

  9. RP is a middle-class accent
    I’ve seen that mentioned more than once, and yet it seems I find it impossible to assimilate, so strong are early associations!

  10. So can someone link to a clip of a genuine upper-class accent, so I can get an idea of it?

  11. A friend of mine used to refer to “Oh God, I’m so fucking bored” accents.
    That’s how Virginia Woolf struck me, waffling along in a bored sort of way. Hardly a literary revolutionary.

  12. Language: So can someone link to a clip of a genuine upper-class accent, so I can get an idea of it?
    Here’s the most obvious example that’s roughly contemporary with Virginia Woolf (this woman’s accent is less distinctive nowadays). Unlike John I don’t think there’s very much difference between middle-class and upper-class accents (I never said there was) and I think both are, and were in Woolf’s time, quite different to a lower-middle or working-class regional accent – but you can compare in this 1960-ish gem of an interview by John Freeman (RP) of Bertrand Russell (upper). Distinctive upper-class pronunciation that isn’t common RP still occurs (house pronounced “hice” and “awf” for off are well-known).

  13. Just as I was about to ask something, all this spam had appeared. (And it’s always selling Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel, those stomach-turning names.)
    I was wondering if children from the upper and the upper-middle classes did not go to the same schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and were not therefore taught the same accent for public use? What accent did Churchill, obviously upper-class, use in his speeches and how did it differ from, say, Attlee’s?

  14. There are too many variables to be categorical about all this: Russell, the old devil, sounds rather Upper Middley of his time to me, although he was of course about as Upper as it’s possible to get, but then he will have spent much of his life among Upper Middles (Gladstone certainly sounded appropriately Upper Middle in his impression). Of course all these people are speaking to a microphone, which means all the influences of that mode will be present.
    Churchill and Attlee may not be fair samples.
    If one of the stereotypical attributes of Upper men of the early 20th C is said to be a lack of showiness, a wish not to be seen to be trying, evinced by old repaired clothes, battered cars, unheated houses, and in speech by ellipsis, contractions, retention of old U vocabulary, retention of g-less -ing endings, etc (in many of these matching similar working case traits, but for different reasons, of course) Churchill’s speech impediment may enhance some of these factors, while his very literary style may diminish them.
    Attlee’ s speech seems to me to have the Middle Class emphasis on correctness and clarity, but this may be in fact simply a field-rank army officer accent of the time (he served with distinction in WW1 of course). There are some similarities in the speech of Montgomery, who was, perhaps, minor gentry.
    The boundaries aren’t clear. The Upper Middles of V Woolf’s time mixed with the Uppers (in Virginia’s case intimately) and there was certainly a tendency for them to pick up Upper ways. Harold Macmillan is a good example of a quintessential Upper Middle presenting himself as though he were as Upper as his in-laws.
    All that may be tosh. I don’t allow people of those classes to mix with me as often as they might wish.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, AJP, for the Bertrand Russell interview. It is a joy to see him and hear him in person.

  16. It was a joy to see Russell – although a joy somewhat diminished by the memory of seeing it first time round, and the realisation of how incredibly old I must be: I saw Russell interviewed talking about when he met Gladstone. Horrible!
    He remained an attractive person, didn’t he. Freeman was gentler with him than he was with some of his subjects, which was very wise of him. Meanwhile, (a) how good the BBC was 50 years ago to make a programme like that and (b) how bad they were not to let it run for another hour.

  17. Here’s the most obvious example that’s roughly contemporary with Virginia Woolf
    “Contemporary” sub specie aeternitatis, perhaps, but the speaker was born in 1926, which means she could have been Woolf’s granddaughter. Furthermore, I’m not at all sure the speech of a royal, brought up in an isolated hothouse atmosphere among other royals (plus of course the servants), is a fair sample of upper-class speech, regardless of cohort. No, I want to hear the Duke of Devonshire chattin’ with his whipper-in while waiting for the hounds to be let loose, or a group of Spencers complaining about the riff-raff who have been allowed on the throne the last few centuries.

  18. Thanks for the details, G.E. (Picky). There must have been accent-switching among the aristocracy too. Some variation of RP for the public and outsiders, and something more colloquial for the inner circle.
    As I’ve said before, I imagine Edith Sitwell, born 1887 and so five years Woolf’s junior, should provide a fair example of an upper-class speaker. Her 1959 interview is easy to find on YouTube. D.H. Lawrence, they say, modeled Wragby Hall to some degree on her parents’ manor in Derbyshire; and the handicapped baronet, on one of her brothers (Osbert or Sacheverell – not sure which).
    “…a group of Spencers complaining about the riff-raff who have been allowed on the throne the last few centuries.” – LH, I once had an English boss who claimed descent from a pre-Norman invasion English family and was legally entitled (so his passport said) to use “Baron X of Y” instead of his common-sounding name. He used to say that Spencers were but 16-th century parvenus, ennobled despite lacking ancestral land.

  19. Well, Alexei, your boss may have been right about the Spencers qua Spencers: I believe the ancestry of their family name is a matter of debate. But of course they have managed to marry into some more respectable families, so they can probably prove genetic ancestry back to Noah. Your boss’s barony, however, whatever his provenance, can’t be a pre-conquest English barony, because we didn’t have such an animal back then.

  20. (Julian) Thoby Stephen was named after (Henry) Thoby Prinsep, Julia’s favorite uncle, who won a prize for how quickly he completed the Persian exam and went on to be Persian Secretary in Bengal. Uncle Thoby really did go blind, as his friend Tennyson always feared he would, like his favorite aunt Elizabeth Russell.

  21. I once had an English boss who claimed descent from a pre-Norman invasion English family and was legally entitled (so his passport said) to use “Baron X of Y” instead of his common-sounding name. He used to say that Spencers were but 16th century parvenus, ennobled despite lacking ancestral land.
    Oh, how Proust loved that kind of thing!

  22. J.W. Brewer says:

    One standard statistical claim is that 80%+ of now-living people of primarily Western European ancestry are direct descendants of Charlemagne. (There’s a much smaller subset who have access to documentation showing the line of descent with all of the links in the chain, but that’s a different question.) A similar claim is that the ancestry of the average person born in England circa 1950 (I guess w/o obvious recent immigrant ancestry) will include when you go back 25 generations approximately 80% of the entire population (or perhaps the subset of the entire population which has any currently-living descendents) of England circa 1200. So you would have to be a very statistically unusual English person not to be e.g. descended from one or more of the barons who signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede, or (pushing back another 4 or 5 generations) for someone who fought on one side or the other at the Battle of Hastings (and survived the experience). Again, that’s different from having access to documentation showing the intermediate links and (another hurdle) having had some genealogically-minded relation take the trouble to find that documentation. If you give the U.S. another couple centuries (although you might need to adjust the model if we keep getting new immigrants), statistical likelihood of descent from some small group of impressive-sounding historical celebrities (signers of the Declaration of Independence, Mayflower passengers, ladies hung as witches at Salem, what have you) will increase rather dramatically.

  23. Agreed, Picky, especially as his barony was in Ireland. His anti-Spencerism had to do, I think, with his undying dislike for Diana, who had been dead for ten years when he and I first talked.
    His accent, I suspect, was drilled into him at the boarding school. My other English colleagues said he would sometimes slip back into the native accent of one of the English shires.

  24. J.W. Brewer says:

    One odd-to-me thing about RP is how small a %age of the English population actually has it (3% says wikipedia citing Trudgill) and how class-linked it is. OTOH, it turns out to me more difficult than I would have thought to get an estimate on what %age of the US population speaks with a “General American” accent. This may in part be because there’s a pretty strictly defined GA that’s the standard to which you asymptotically aspire if you have a markedly non-prestige accent you’re trying to shed for a career as a newscaster or whatnot, but then there’s a looser sense that covers a continuum of regional dialects which someone like Bill Labov can distinguish from each other but are all close enough to that rather abstracted formal standard that there is no discernable lack-of-social-prestige associated with them, and a significant number of parts of the country where people fairly far down from the top few percent the socioeconomic hierarchy natively have that accent. (And indeed, rustic farmers from Nebraska, Utah, and suchlike low-prestige flyover-country places may natively have what the newscasters were traditionally trained to aspire to.) The somewhat artificial posh-boarding-school accent one once associated with Thurston Howell III, Franklin Roosevelt, etc., never afaik displaced the normative importance of that considerably more broadly based standard GA pronunciation, and is anyway dead and gone, at least insofar as by the time I started college 30 years ago the rich kids who’d gone to the posh New England boarding schools were not particularly distinguishable by accent.

  25. Language: I want to hear the Duke of Devonshire chattin’ with his whipper-in
    GE Picky: The boundaries aren’t clear
    Language, apart from the queen I’m having a hard time finding a good example of upper-class speech. Most aristocrats have had no reason to be on Youtube, they aren’t notable in any way. The Duke of Devonshire, the one married to Deborah Mitford, sounds disappointingly normal.
    I don’t think the dropped ‘g’ survived the Second World War.
    Edith Sitwell sounds like any older middle-class woman of that period (the landlady in The Ladykillers, for example) – to me she doesn’t sound especially upper class just slightly crazy.
    Not that anyone’s saying he’s from the aristocracy, but out of interest Evelyn Waugh on Face To Face sounds like a vicar (one with a very short fuse).
    m-l & Picky, I’m glad you liked Russell. So did I.
    I agree with everything Picky said in his first comment.

  26. I don’t think the dropped ‘g’ survived the Second World War.
    I know, that’s why I want to hear the real thing. I know my desire is likely to go unfulfilled. The real old aristos didn’t hang around recording studios.

  27. Here’s Lord David Cecil, brother of the Tory 1950s éminence grise the Marquess of Salisbury, who sounded quite a lot like Terry-Thomas. He says “awf” at 3:34 – I hope this BBC recording works in the USA. Sometimes they don’t, something to do with copyright.

  28. This interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25IO32AxGq4) of Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire with Charlotte Mosley is interesting in that it contrasts a contemporary upper class accent between generations. Class-wise Charlotte Mosley is not far off Deborah Mitford.

  29. Here’s Lord David Cecil, brother of the Tory 1950s éminence grise the Marquess of Salisbury, who sounded quite a lot like Terry-Thomas. He says “awf” at 3:34 – I hope this BBC recording works in the USA. Sometimes they don’t, something to do with copyright.
    Thanks very much, it worked admirably and was fascinating to listen to! Especially toward the end, he started gabbling and swallowing his words and fit my image of U speech to a T. I could probably practice for a year and not be able to perfectly reproduce the way he says “year.”
    This interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25IO32AxGq4) of Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire with Charlotte Mosley is interesting in that it contrasts a contemporary upper class accent between generations. Class-wise Charlotte Mosley is not far off Deborah Mitford.
    Excellent as well; here‘s a direct link. For anyone who might want to check it out, the women don’t actually start talking until the 6:40 mark.

  30. 80%+ of now-living people of primarily Western European ancestry are direct descendants of Charlemagne.
    100% of anyone with any European ancestry at all, in fact. It’s the pigeonhole principle. About 48 generations have passed since Karl ruled the roost in Europe, which means every European has 2^48 = 281,474,976,710,656 (281 trillion) ancestors in the 50th degree. Of course, since there were only about 1.4 million people in Europe at the time, then dividing the first number by the second tells us that each of us is descended from each of them in about 200 million different ways.
    In fact, of course, lots of people living then don’t have any descendants today. Genealogically we know that Karl isn’t one of them: he has certified descendants living. Consequently, the above number is even higher, and he really truly is the ancestor of all of us who have any European ancestors at all, even though we don’t know exactl how in the vast majority of cases. And the same is true of anyone living then: they are ancestors of all of us Europeans or none of us.
    As for GA, the closest thing to what was “General American” fifty years ago is the relic North Central accent area. But newscaster-speak is not really that accent, it is rather a deracinated accent with essentially all shibboleths removed. It is non-regional not because it is not associated with a specific region (as RP is not), but because all associations with every region have been stripped. As such it is not a prestige accent, but rather an occupational one, like speaking Nashville if you’re an airline pilot. As I like to say, cultivated Bostonians don’t aspire to speak like cultivated Houstonians, nor vice versa, and the only U.S. President to have been elected without a regional accent was the trained actor.

  31. The contrast between Russell and Cecil is fascinating. Why do they speak so differently, given that their class backgrounds are almost identical? Two stratospherically noble families; both decently old money (Tudor risers); both collectors of titles in numbers that in anyone else might be considered almost vulgar, the Cecils leading with a marquess, the Russells just taking the trick with a duke; both families highly political and both prime-minister-suppliers; both men educated and cultivated, both very successful in Upper Middle professions in Academe. So why does one speak like the highly intelligent man he is, and the other like one of Bertie Wooster’s friends suddenly encumbered with a little mental brightness? My suggestions:
    1 Cecil led a closed, cloistered life, his greatest contribution to politics being his charming two volumes on Melbourne; Russell was a radical actively engaged in left-wing politics who needed a voice which could be heard and believed by outdoor crowds of thousands from all classes (as in Gladstone, of course).
    2 Is it unfair to suggest that Russell’s voice has the clarity of a Cambridge mathematician and philosopher, and Cecil’s the waffle of an Oxford Man of Letters?
    3 Fashion, perhaps: Russell is a child of the Victorian age, Cecil of the Edwardian/Georgian one. And personal choice. And “set” and company and lifestyle.
    Anyway, whatever the reasons, class doesn’t seem to determine all, thank goodness.

  32. It could also be politics. I’m assuming Cecil was a Conservative, like his brother. According to the Oxford DNB (Rachel Trickett) he was friends with the same Bloomsbury people as Russell:

    …success led to Cecil’s decision to resign his fellowship in 1930 and take up the life of a writer in London. There he met and fell in love with Rachel, only daughter of Desmond MacCarthy, literary critic, one of the original members of the Bloomsbury group. Their marriage took place in 1932. Virginia Woolf in a wry but affectionate entry in her diary describes ‘David and Rachel, arm-in-arm, sleep-walking down the aisle, preceded by a cross which ushered them into a car and so into a happy, long life, I make no doubt’ (The Diary of Virginia Woolf, ed. A. O. Bell, 4, 1982, 128). She was not to know how accurate her ironic prediction would prove. A remarkable woman in her own right, Rachel MacCarthy was the perfect match for her husband. Of a simpler, more practical nature, she shared his vivacity and his unfailing curiosity about people, literature, and life. Like him, she was instinctively religious and a practising Christian. They were perfectly happy together, drawing their many friends into that happiness, for fifty years.
    …Cecil considered himself, with good reason, the most fortunate of men. Born into one of the first families in the land, gifted with intellectual and imaginative sympathies of a high order, professionally successful, idyllically happy in his marriage and family life, he might well have grown complacent and a figure of envy. But complacency was not in his nature or his background: he was self-critical and self-aware. As for enemies, he had few if any. He was greatly loved because of the unusual sweetness of his temper and his genuine humility. Naturally high-spirited and with some vanity, he felt most strongly an inherited impulse of service and purpose. Himself a devout Christian, what he possessed he wanted to share, and he had been given precisely the gifts to enable this. His appearance was extraordinary and memorable: elegant and at the same time spontaneously gauche, continually in motion from the twirling thumbs to the enthusiastic forward lurch. His voice, too, was rapid, stuttering, and spasmodic, with Edwardian pronunciation. David Cecil was one of the most influential cultural figures of his age.

    Their son Jonathan Cecil the actor had a similar way of speaking.

  33. And there is nothing gauche or lurching or stuttering or spasmodic about his writing style.

  34. J.W. Brewer says:

    Somewhat contra JC: it’s not *quite* the pigeonhole principle. It’s clear that once you get back to the Nth generation that it is mathematically necessary for some ancestors to be duplicatively appearing in multiple slots (perhaps millions of them), but that’s not the same math as what gets you to everyone from the potential pool of then-living ancestors (or even everyone with now-living descendents) necessarily appearing in at least one slot. So, e.g., the estimate for England I referenced above was more or less that if you go back 25 generations (33 million slots) about 2 million of the then-living English will occupy one or more slots, but the remaining 0.5 million won’t occupy any despite having other now-alive descendents. That’s obviously the result of a mathematical model that has to have a lot of assumptions built into it about the ratio of endogamy v. exogamy over time across e.g. social-class and geographical divisions within the English population (not to mention differentials by class/geography/etc. in the tendency of children to survive long enough to have children of their own), and if you tweak those assumptions you will get different results. A model where any male in the population X generations back is equally likely to beget a child with any randomly-selected female in the population will get you to the everyone-is-descended-from-everyone point much sooner (and requires less complicated math), but is empirically implausible.

  35. Continuing the Koshchei thread: From the article In Kirov Forest at the LRB, about the trial of Alexei Navalny for stealing it:

    The heroes and heroines of Russian fairy tales often have to go into the ‘dense, dark’ forest, to steal a magic implement, or chop down trees, and find themselves sucked into a strange world where nothing is as it seems, at the mercy of shape-shifting wood-sprites, Baba Yaga with her house on chicken legs surrounded by glowing skulls, Koschei the Deathless who sucks the life out young women and can only be destroyed if you can find his soul, which is hidden in a needle, which is in an egg, which is in a duck, which is in a hare, which is in an iron chest buried under a green oak tree on the island of Buyan.

    Note “the Deathless”, not “the Immortal”; the former has about four times as many ghits.
    I remember Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged house vividly from a book read to me (in English) in my childhood.
    But anyway, here is James Branch Cabell’s authorial alter ego, also Koshchei the Deathless, who made all things as they are:

    “I have been thinking, Prince—” begins the pawnbroker.
    “And why do you call me a prince, Jurgen?”
    “I do not know, sir. But I suspect that my quest is ended, and that you are Koshchei the Deathless.”
    The black gentleman nodded. “Something of the sort. Koshchei, or Ardnari, or Ptha, or Jaldalaoth, or Abraxas,—it is all one what I may be called hereabouts. My real name you never heard: no man has ever heard my name. So that matter we need hardly go into.”
    “Precisely, Prince. Well, but it is a long way that I have traveled roundabout, to win to you who made things as they are. And it is eager I am to learn just why you made things as they are.”
    Up went the black gentleman’s eyebrows into regular Gothic arches. “And do you really think, Jurgen, that I am going to explain to you why I made things as they are?”
    “I fail to see, Prince, how my wanderings could have any other equitable climax.”
    “But, friend, I have nothing to do with justice. [The subtitle of Jurgen is A Comedy of Justice.] To the contrary, I am Koshchei who made things as they are.”
    Jurgen saw the point. “Your reasoning, Prince, is unanswerable. I bow to it. I should even have foreseen it. [...]“

  36. Rodger C says:

    Airline pilots don’t speak Nashville. They imitate Chuck Yeager, a West Virginian.

  37. Keynes’ voice, that of another Bloomsbury Apostle mathematician-philosopher (here a fairly middle-class family, although one which had Norman barons who fought at Hastings) is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sxHssJ-d-I&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    Now I’d like to hear Lytton Strachey.
    >> RP is a middle-class accent.
    This Brit says anyone can speak RP. The primarily (upper-) middle-class Sloane Rangers, for instance, have a horrible, horrible ‘rah’ accent. A working-class person could just as easily speak RP as anybody else; it’s in no way limited. The bourgeoisie do dominate, but that’s just because they dominate society generally. The upper class actually probably speak more RP than the upper-middle class, and the lower-middle class often speak their regional accent quite heavily. Here in Norfolk, the first employer and his gamekeeper both speak heavily Norfolk, the next heavily preppy.

  38. Note “the Deathless”, not “the Immortal”; the former has about four times as many ghits.
    The normal, unmarked word for ‘immortal’ in Russian is бессмертный. Deathless is very strongly marked. I see no need to bow to the authority of James Branch Cabell.

  39. Andrej B. says:

    @Picky – there’s also the fact that Russel was born in 1872 and Cecil in 1902. Add to that Russel’s being raised by his grandparents.
    Alec Douglas-Home (b. 1903) is a good example of and Upper Class RP speaker of his generation, I think. A bunch of recordings are available on YouTube.

  40. It looks like not all of the tracks from the BL CDs have been ripped to YouTube. The Woolf that introduced this post has, obviously. And Keynes it there. But not Desmond MacCarthy, for instance.

  41. Nor would he wish you to. But folktale characters are often given archaic epithets in English, and deathless fits that pattern.

  42. Yes, and were he an English folktale character he might well be called “deathless.” But his name would probably not be Koshchei.

  43. Hat: He is now, even if not as widely known as Cinderella, Puss-in-Boots, or even Nasruddin.
    Marek: Anyone can learn RP, even a North American (unlikely as that is). But it began with the bourgeoisie, and retains markers of that origin.

  44. I’ve now heard most of the audio above. What strikes me about Russell is his consistent use of /oʊ/ for the GOAT vowel, like an Irishman or American. Not that his accent sounds like any of those impressionistically, it just retains that traditional feature. Occasionally he does use /əʊ/ (the modern RP pronunciation of GOAT) particularly in unstressed syllables. I also hear a very occasional postvocalic /r/-coloring that I wouldn’t expect.
    I also liked Russell more than I had expected to. My father told me a story about him, of which he claimed to be an eyewitness. It seems that Russell had been invited to Harvard, where my father was studying, to give a talk, and he had demanded a then-unheard-of fee of $300 (or some such). The committee that had invited him agreed to pay this extortion, and thought they should also invite him to dinner. “In that case,” he replied, “my fee will be $500.” At this, one member of the committee muttered “For God’s sake, don’t invite him to breakfast.” That rather put me off Russell as a person, though I do like several of his books. (I am quite prepared to be told that this story is told of many others.)
    Te Kuini is quite right to say that Auckland is the most nearly antipodal large city to London. About 600 miles southeast of the South Island we find the Antipodes Islands, which were named because they were approximately antipodal to London (though more nearly so to Cherbourg). The discoverer was evidently a pedant, as he called them the “Penantipodes Islands”; posterity has very sensibly dropped the first syllable. The only thing phonological I noted about her speech was the use of /ʃ/ in Asia.

  45. `It was an unexpected and nostalgic pleasure to listen to old recordings of or about the Bloomsbury Group.`
    Jonathan Cecil, The Spectator.

    MMcM, Thanks for that link to the cd from the British Library. That might be worth paying for.

  46. J.W. Brewer says:

    I suppose the claim for Auckland depends on the minimum cut-off for a “large” city, but either Christchurch or Dunedin would be significantly closer, depending on where one sets the largeness bar. For reasons mysterious to me (something in the water?) there was a great cultural efflorescence starting about 30 years ago in Dunedin which led to an absolute majority of all New Zealand rock bands worth listening to (imho) originating there.

  47. dearieme says:

    Perhaps Russell experimented with different accents until he found one that was particularly effective when trying to seduce other men’s wives?

  48. “In that case,” he replied, “my fee will be $500.”
    Obviously his hosts regarded dinner as a favour, Russell as an imposition.

  49. @Marek: What is a “rah” accent?
    Also: I am feeling both very young and very old. About forty years ago my college roommate handed me Cabell’s Jürgen, which I have not looked at since, and which lives vividly in my memory as something either profoundly mysterious or very silly; a few years later, I went with my grad school housemate to the home of a visiting Greek sociologist or possibly anthropologist who had met us at a used-furniture shop and acquired some sort of crush on one or both of us, and the three of us made a painting, on a large piece of brown paper, of Baba Yaga’s house with chicken feet (that’s all I know about Baba Yaga, but it’s enough to be getting on with).

  50. I am quite prepared to be told that this story is told of many others.
    Ferruccio Busoni.
    Mary Garden.
    Fritz Kreisler.
    Sergei Rachmaninoff.

  51. JWB: Fair enough; based on 1951 census data, Auckland and Christchurch had about the same population, although Dunedin was only about half as populous. Due to differential growth and substantial changes in boundaries, Auckland is now more than four times as populous as either Christchurch or Wellington.
    MMcM: Those stories aren’t quite the same. The narrative skeleton of them is: “Please come to dinner and perform for us.” “Very well, my fee is $LARGE.” “In that case, since you are just hired help, you must not mingle with the guests.” “In that case I lower my fee.” Russell’s skeleton involves raising the fee for socializing, rather than lowering it for not socializing.

  52. Cabell’s Jürgen
    Es gibt doch kein Umlaut.
    Those stories aren’t quite the same.
    True, but they do raise strong doubts about the historicity of the Russell story.

  53. David Marjanović says:

    Virginia Woolf kept every r-coloring as a full diphthong, except for monophthongal stressed [ɜː] and unstressed [ɑ] (quite distinct from the modern [ə] or for that matter German [ɐ]). In modern RP, this is much reduced – NORTH/FORCE and CAUGHT are identical now (outside the upper class at least), and more or less [oː].
    At the same time, her GOAT vowel was already [œy]! And most of the samples in this thread keep it, Russell being the most noticeable exception. It goes without saying that [œy] is more innovative than the currently common (in RP) [ɵʊ], the mythical [əʊ] which I may never have heard, the American [ɔʊ] or the long extinct [oʊ] which I’ve only ever heard in a sample from a WWI veteran (it was on John Wells’s blog long ago).
    Lord Namesake Cecil clearly had a cold or some other nasal obstruction. He sounds like he wanted to finish before having to take the next breath. As a result, he didn’t aspirate, and he voiced all consonants that were followed by other voiced ones – together with his intonation and his conservative use of [ɛ] and [e] for HAT and GET, this makes him sound surprisingly Indian!

    he only thing phonological I noted about her speech was the use of /ʃ/ in Asia.

    And television! I mean, it may be a voiceless lenis and thus still distinct from her actual /ʃ/ (I haven’t paid that much attention), but it’s completely voiceless.

    Es gibt doch kein Umlaut.

    That would be keinen, because Laut is masculine; and it would mean that none exists at all. To express that there’s none here, just say ohne Umlaut or doch ohne Umlaut; if you really want a complete sentence, the best I can offer is das hat doch keinen Umlaut.
    Stressing doch expresses that your expectation was wrong, not stressing it expresses that the other party’s was (perhaps stupidly so). :-)

  54. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, from a closed thread: Serbian squeezes all loans into its orthography because, for Cyrillic, it has to, and the Latin and the Cyrillic spellings have to correspond 1 : 1; Croatian, AFAIK, has recently stopped this in order to distinguish itself from Serbian.
    Lithuanian and Latvian do it too, though. In their cases, part of the reason may be grammatical – at least Latvian adds the nominative ending -s to all transcribed male names.

  55. Es tut mir leid, dass ich einen überflüssigen Umlaut geschrieben habe.
    By the way, does the word Umlaut in German ever refer to the two dots over the letter as opposed to the sound change represented by it (as it so often does in English)?

  56. Extinct, am I? By no means. My GOAT is [oʊ], my THOUGHT is [ɔ], my NORTH=FORCE is [or], and [ɒ] is a vowel I don’t use at all: nevertheless, “I come before you to stand behind you to speak of a subject I know nothing about”, as the poet says.
    “Croatian [...] has recently stopped this”: do you mean recently stopped writing Cyrillic (it never did, though it was once written in Glagolitic) or recently stopped respelling loans (AFAIK it never did that either). Standard Croatian, like Standard Serbian, long predates the creation of the now extinct Standard Serbo-Croatian. (Pace Hat, the existence of multiple standards or hybrid standards does not mean the existence of multiple languages, any more than it does for Norwegian or English.)

  57. Andrej B. says:

    AFAIK Croatian hasn’t stopped respelling loans, certainly not the ones that had already entered the language, but they did continue to not respell personal names, whereas not respelling them is confined to informal writing in Serbian (informal writing of people familiar with English, it goes without saying).
    Also, if you open up, say, an IT magazine in Serbian, you can expect to see a bunch of recent loans in original spelling.

  58. That would be keinen, because Laut is masculine; and it would mean that none exists at all. To express that there’s none here, just say ohne Umlaut or doch ohne Umlaut; if you really want a complete sentence, the best I can offer is das hat doch keinen Umlaut.
    Bah, I should know better than to try to write anything in German; it and I have never gotten along. Thanks for the corrections!

  59. Alexei K. says:

    An American actor/actress may have to learn RP to play someone like Woolf. Kidman is not American and she does not sound quite like Woolf in Hours but one wonders if the sort of unnatural, stilted, headmistressy intonation and articulation we hear in Woolf’s speech on letters would still be heard in an intimate conversation.
    On Serbian and Lithuanian – do I understand correctly that George Walker Bush used to be rendered as Džordž Volker Buš and Џорџ Вокер Буш in Croatian and Serbian, but now the Croatian spelling is back to George Walker Bush while the Serbian is unchanged? The inflections become a little quirky, like Georgea Busha in the genitive, or “vjenčao se s Laurom Welch” (married Laura Welch).
    In Lithuanian, as in Latvian, respelling is still required, possibly because of the nominative endings: Džordžas Volkeris Bušas.

  60. Why is there no spam here?

  61. Andrej B. says:

    @Alexei – as a kid growing up in Serbia in the ’90s I remember reading library books written in Croatian, published in the ’80s mostly, and they all had English names in the original spelling. So nothing changed there. I’m not sure though if Croatian newspapers used to transcribe foreign names before the split.

  62. Why is there no spam here?
    Sorry, we’re having problems with our suppliers.

  63. Emmanuel Kreizer says:

    Dearieme, you wouldn’t happen to read Mencius Moldbug’s blog, would you?

  64. Well, there’s no point in making a comment if nobody’s going to offer me a set of matching luggage.

  65. Crap. I was just down by Canal Street an hour ago, AJP; if I’da known, I’da stopped by.

  66. It’s been 20 years since that was my neighborhood. I don’t even know if they still sell fake stuff down there.

  67. Fake bags and real electronics, same as before.

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