It’s Not Often I Agree With Hugh Muir….

…but, well, it is nearly the season of goodwill:

MP David Lammy seems to have been in uncompromising mood addressing a group of sixth-formers in London. “‘Innit’ or ‘izzit’ is not going to get you a job.


What to do, for urban street talk is everywhere? On TV and radio, in the classroom.

And it’s not just confined to ‘the black community’ either, but don’t expect Lammy or Muir to even notice that…

But this is not even new: previous generations have had to grapple with the difficulty that street-speak and some specific dialects don’t transport well into formal situations. The difference is that we didn’t have the arrogance to try.

Who gave these children that arrogance, then, Hugh? Who lead them to believe that they didn’t need to conform?

We were, we are chameleons. We learned sufficient of the Queen’s English to be able to intersect with the mainstream. We saved the vocabulary that didn’t transport well for occasions with family and friends. It was what one might describe as reasonable accommodation.

And yet so often is now decried as ‘acting white’…

Does chameleonism amount to self-betrayal? I don’t think so.

Someone must have planted the suggestion, though…

Innit; izzit; their deployment highlights one of the decisions crucial to the migrant – and social class – journey in Britain: how much of what I am and what I do is non-negotiable, and how much am I prepared to compromise to speed my own progress?

If the only reason you’re doing it is to get a job, and not because it’s the right thing to do, it won’t stick…

5 comments for “It’s Not Often I Agree With Hugh Muir….

  1. November 30, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    LOL. And since when was “intersect with the mainstream” the Queen’s English?

  2. December 1, 2013 at 12:13 am

    It’s a generational thing – from Gen X on, education was shortchanged, plus parents educated from home less and less and the texts available were poor. I had to teach from new texts such as OUP’s Knockout for FCE, the best of a bad bunch and even in there were glaring errors by the authors – just where were these people educated?

    And there are indicators you’re going to get error-ridden grammar – if they speak of “present progressive” tense in a text, rather than “present continuous”, you know you’re in trouble – the “reformers” have got to it, the narrativists who feel we have to be “relevant” are at the keyboard.

    • December 3, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      And the rot is probably irreversible…

  3. Furor Teutonicus
    December 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    XX . “‘Innit’ or ‘izzit’ XX

    I will take a guess here, past tense is “Wazitt”?

    It is, however, not new.

    Liverpool in the 60s to….. probaly today, “Wernt it?”

    The difference today appears to be, that they do not know how to speak in the first place.

    Here we have “Hochdeutsch”, and then “Umgangssprache”, and again, dialect.

    The important point here is, that ALL can speak/read/write, “Hochdeutsch.”

    This does not appear to be the case in Britain.

  4. December 2, 2013 at 1:04 am


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