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Distributed for Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

We Are Not Amused

Victorian Views on Pronunciation as Told in the Pages of Punch

Have you ever cringed while hearing someone mispronounce a word—or, worse, been tripped up by a wily silent letter yourself? Consider yourself lucky that you do not live in Victorian England, when the way you pronounced a word was seen as a sometimes-damning index of who you were and how you should be treated. No wonder then that jokes about English usage provided one of Punch magazine’s most fruitful veins of humor for sixty years, from its first issue in 1841 to 1900.

For We Are Not Amused, renowned English-language expert David Crystal has explored the most common pronunciation-related controversies during the reign of Queen Victoria and brought together the cartoons and articles that poked fun at them, adding insightful commentary on the context of the times. The collection brings to light a society where class distinctions ruled. Crystal explains why people felt so strongly about accents and identifies which accents were the main sources of jokes, from the dropped h’s of the Cockney working class to the upper-class tendency to drop the final g in words like “huntin’” and “fishin’.”
           
In this fascinating and highly entertaining book, Crystal shows that outrage over proper pronunciation is nothing new—our feelings today have their origins in the ways our Victorian predecessors thought about the subject.
 

96 pages | 54 halftones | 6 1/4 x 8 1/4

Language and Linguistics:

Literature and Literary Criticism: Humor


Table of Contents

Introduction
Why Then?
Mr Punch Tries to Help
Elocution Walker
Provincial Peculiarities
Poor Letter H: Upstairs and Downstairs
Going Too Far
The Demand for Elocution
Follow the Spelling
Spelling Bees
Cockney Vowels
Keb, Sir?
Vowel Washing
Ambiguities
Posh Pronunciation
Personal Intewest
Scots Pronunciation
The Wh- Problem
Dr Johnson on the Scots Accent
Inoffensive Boswell
Pronouncing Place-Names
Underground Pronunciations
Law and Lindley Murray
Pronouncing Surnames
Actors' Pronunciation
American Pronunciation
Taking Cockney Seriously?
Leaving Walker Behind
Ongoing Change
Further Reading
Picture Credits
Index

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