Magazine article The Spectator

Linguistic Thickets

Magazine article The Spectator

Linguistic Thickets

Article excerpt

Sir: I am pleased that it annoys Rod Liddle (Liddle Britain, 4 October) as much as it does me that BBC newsreaders have the annoying habit of affecting the local dialect to pronounce the names of foreign cities and leaders who the BBC leadership approve of, Neekohlas Sarkozee of the Elyzee Palass for example. Then, to show their displeasure at foreign leaders they disapprove of they revert to their local English dialect. If not for Putin, Moscow would now be Moskva, in BBC world anyway. I can assure these precious brainwashers that in India, Mumbai is still called Bombay, Kolkata is still Calcutta, and in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is still Saigon. So stop fretting about upsetting these 'foreigners', as they really don't care.

Mark Anderson Newcastle

Sir: I imagine that your in-house oik and associate editor 'Rod' Liddle judges that no one who reads the Guardian also reads The Spectator. I do; and would like your readers to know that the free style guide he mentions was given away by the Guardian and makes no mention of grandmothers or Bangalore.

It does require its journalists to refrain from using such tired and patronising phrases as 'battling grannies': I hope The Spectator does also. The Guardian also warns against using 'bachelor' as a sly implication of sexual preferences. Isn't that sensible?

Liddle then stumbles into the linguistic thicket of foreign names transcribed into English. Here we are moving on to the shifting sands of English usage and pronunciation.

My father, who died in 1996, always spelt the capital of Beaujolais 'Lyons' and pronounced it as if it were part of the once-famous chain of cafeterias; he also called the port at the mouth of the Rhone 'Marsails'. …

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