Accents of Housey pupils

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viejoazul
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Accents of Housey pupils

Post by viejoazul » Fri Jul 31, 2015 3:29 pm

This is a topic that seems not to have been treated – 'Accents of Housey pupils'.

In my schooldays, in the middle of the last century, the range of new squits’ accents was very wide indeed. They often had pronounced regional accents. Many were from London. But the west of England and Midlands were also well represented. Although it is not pc to say so, such accents often represented different social strata. But there were no elocution lessons, nor do I recollect that boys received much advice about speaking correctly. Yet inexorably, as one went up the school, slowly a typical (lower?) middle class accent seemed to have become more or less the norm for everyone. Traces of original regional accents did sometimes persist. I recollect one contemporary from Lancashire and another, a Scot, who on leaving school had retained a few traces of their original pronunciation. In those days virtually all the teaching staff were Oxbridge graduates and most of them had standard speech. So one’s final accent was unconsciously acquired from senior boys, but ultimately from the masters.

With today’s large variety of teaching staff’s universities and regrettably a general de-emphasis of correct English (both spoken and written) but perhaps not at CH, what is the Housey pupil accent situation now? I have spent too little time in the company of senior pupils during the last few decades to know. Or should I not bring up such a non-pc topic?

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J.R.
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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by J.R. » Fri Jul 31, 2015 6:58 pm

A very interesting topic for a thread, viejoazu.

I went to CH in 1958 with what can only be described as a provincial Surrey accent.

On leaving in 1963 to join Surrey Police, I experienced some mickey-taking as having a rather too strong 'public school' accent.

A while later, after having worked in London predominately the east end for some years, I allegedly acquired what was described as an almost cockney accent. The number of times I have been asked what part of London I come from can only be said to be numerous.

The strange thing is, that in my advanced years, I can revert to public-school, chav style east-end london speak at will.

The only accent I never managed to master or imitate, was the broad Glaswegian after a few visits there ! But that is another story and I am starting to digress.

North west Scottish a la Inverness is also easy to me after having spent two CH summer holidays up in that glorious part of Britain with cousins when my mother was hospitalised.
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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by rockfreak » Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:49 pm

Ha ha! Most amusing experience here in the 1950s. In our English class Gad took it upon himself to try and teach us correct pronunciation. He particularly homed in on Col B (of which I was a member and of which - I think, he had once been a housemaster). The Col B accent was impure, said Gad. When he demonstrated the vowel sounds of which we were guilty, they were, I think, what might now be called Estuary English. So we had to read out passages of prose while trying to achieve "pure pronunciation". In the end, I got the prize for my "i's". They were perfect, said Gad. But thinking back on it I think they made me sound like a cross between Quentin Crisp and Bryan Sewell, so I dropped them whenever out of the English class. In the end, our house captain, one Robert Oxlade, took it up with Gad and accused him of discrimination.
But I can never see what's wrong with regional accents. A well-spoken Scotsman is a delight to the ear, as indeed is a well-spoken Yorkshireman (I'm a bit biased here perhaps because my father's family came from the north and my dad did a stint down the mines in Durham in his youth, so I didn't grow up with the southerner's prejudice). And listening to old BBC TV announcers' voices on archive programmes from the postwar period, they sound excruciatingly posh and affected to my ears today.

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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by postwarblue » Sat Aug 01, 2015 8:58 am

Let's draw a distinction between accents and slovenly speech, dropped consonants etc. which are inimical to effective communication. In the big world those who can't communicate their ideas effectively either in writing or via direct presentation are simply ignored. If the listener can't follow the speech then he isn't under any obligation to make an effort to do so.

In my Col B cohort (a bit ahead of the one mentioned above) we had a boy from Bridlington with a broad Yorkshire accent, and that, with other factors, caused him to be bullied unmercifully. But otherwise CH flattened everybody out to a common norm I think. Some people drift into a local accent more readily than others. In the sixties I met up in NZ with two great aunts who had emigrated there forty years before and had been housekeeping together for many years. One spoke as she had always done, the other broad Kiwi.
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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by J.R. » Sat Aug 01, 2015 4:05 pm

rockfreak wrote:Ha ha! Most amusing experience here in the 1950s. In our English class Gad took it upon himself to try and teach us correct pronunciation. He particularly homed in on Col B (of which I was a member and of which - I think, he had once been a housemaster). The Col B accent was impure, said Gad. When he demonstrated the vowel sounds of which we were guilty, they were, I think, what might now be called Estuary English. So we had to read out passages of prose while trying to achieve "pure pronunciation". In the end, I got the prize for my "i's". They were perfect, said Gad. But thinking back on it I think they made me sound like a cross between Quentin Crisp and Bryan Sewell, so I dropped them whenever out of the English class. In the end, our house captain, one Robert Oxlade, took it up with Gad and accused him of discrimination.
But I can never see what's wrong with regional accents. A well-spoken Scotsman is a delight to the ear, as indeed is a well-spoken Yorkshireman (I'm a bit biased here perhaps because my father's family came from the north and my dad did a stint down the mines in Durham in his youth, so I didn't grow up with the southerner's prejudice). And listening to old BBC TV announcers' voices on archive programmes from the postwar period, they sound excruciatingly posh and affected to my ears today.
Then, by rights, as N.T. Fryer was my house-master, I should have developed a broad Welsh accent !! :rolleyes:
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by sejintenej » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:23 pm

I'm not sure about ending up with a middle class accent. I started off with Devonian patois - langauge and accent, the former being the subject of house master "action" and threats. I did have a day when "they" tried to teach me to pronounce some letter correctly - and failed. I simply couldn't do so or understand why.(I suspect it was the ow as in mouse). My wife says I have lost most but not all my extremely upper crust accent which has no Devon connections. I find this hard because after a month in the sicker I had to have surgery which included the excision of my adenoids - that should have destroyed the nasal sounds. As for later I was mistaken for a native of Lofoten (based on accent and language), I could do Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) language and pronunciation but Gibraltar accent Spanish escaped me.
Ergo I think there were many other influences at work.

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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by William » Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:56 am

The Housey accent story has a long history and the following about Rev Kelsey is not (to my knowledge) recorded in any official account. When CH came to Horsham, the new buildings included four ultra modern science laboratories (the Old Science School). These were a great novelty, most successful and their existence (and what was taught there and how it was taught) were unique in all UK schools for several decades.

The first head of science at Horsham, a chemist, was Mr Charles Browne (Chas or Uncle Chas) commemorated in the OSS. His senior physics teacher was the Rev W.R. Kelsey, author of two physics text books and although very knowledgable, he was an exceedingly poor disciplinarian. Frequently he was mimicked, because of his strong cockney accent and high pitched voice. But he was very intelligent and had an original mind. His pupils often played practical jokes on the Rev Kelsey. On one occasion glue was put on his chair and his trousers stuck to it. On another he came into the laboratory to find a dead mouse pinned by its tail to the blackboard. He removed it without a word amid ill concealed giggles from the class.

During the first service he conducted in Chapel, there was a loud imitation of his cockney pronunciation of “Ouwer farver” when leading the Lord’s Prayer. This resulted in a stern message from the headmaster Dr Fyfe, read in all the houses the next evening during ‘house duty’ and this mocking in Chapel was never repeated.

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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by michael scuffil » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:44 am

On p. 332 of The Christ's Hospital Book, A.H. Buck (ColB again!) 'enters a plea' for a 'less slovenly and unmusical speech from the boys, particularly in talk and play among themselves.' He talks of the 'ugly, jeering accent of the worst type of sports spectator'.

Personally I think that elocution (and posture) ought to be on every school curriculum.

As for masters with non-standard accents, the only one I remember who suffered as a result was the young Tom Keeley, who had a strong Nottingham accent. He too was, to start with, a very poor disciplinarian (his classroom had to be repainted after his first term because of the ink splashes).
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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by Kit Bartlett » Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:50 am

I remember "Teddy" Edwards giving a talk to the class about accents and asking different boys to say a few words so that he could tell from which part of the country they came. I only recall two accents of the many that were given both of which he got right. One was broad Berkshire and the other Oxford.
Bryan Magee refers in his book "Growing up in wartime" that in his first days at C,H. when asked what form he was on replied the L.F.I. He meant of course the L.F.A. and was gently corrected. he came from inner London and was initially known as "Blimey Magee" .
We had a boy in Coleridge A with a strong Scottish accent who was continually mocked.
One Grecian had a different way of pronouncing his e's and when he read grace once in Dining Hall most of the school pronounced the word Amen
similarly.
I don't recall any masters in my time who had other than the standard BBC accent.

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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by michael scuffil » Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:48 pm

Later in his book, Magee comments that after a few years, people at home were saying: 'Don' 'e speak nice!' In fact I heard him speak at CH when he was a Labour MP and there was not a trace of cockney left. But few at CH actually spoke with a 'public school' accent.
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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by sejintenej » Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:12 pm

Kit Bartlett wrote:I remember "Teddy" Edwards giving a talk to the class about accents and asking different boys to say a few words so that he could tell from which part of the country they came. I only recall two accents of the many that were given both of which he got right. .
In Prep A a boy who joined when I did came from Ireland and had that accent.
As for Teddy Edwards's ability I came across a professor from Oslo who thought he could do that. Although all the locals knew the truth he recognised that from my accent and grammar I came from Bo in Lofoten! In fact my teacher / girlfriend then came from there and I simply copied her accent.
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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by J.R. » Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:00 pm

sejintenej wrote:
Kit Bartlett wrote:I remember "Teddy" Edwards giving a talk to the class about accents and asking different boys to say a few words so that he could tell from which part of the country they came. I only recall two accents of the many that were given both of which he got right. .
In Prep A a boy who joined when I did came from Ireland and had that accent.
As for Teddy Edwards's ability I came across a professor from Oslo who thought he could do that. Although all the locals knew the truth he recognised that from my accent and grammar I came from Bo in Lofoten! In fact my teacher / girlfriend then came from there and I simply copied her accent.
Was that strictly legal out there, David ??
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by sejintenej » Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:53 pm

J.R. wrote:
sejintenej wrote: In Prep A a boy who joined when I did came from Ireland and had that accent.
As for Teddy Edwards's ability I came across a professor from Oslo who thought he could do that. Although all the locals knew the truth he recognised that from my accent and grammar I came from Bo in Lofoten! In fact my teacher / girlfriend then came from there and I simply copied her accent.
Was that strictly legal out there, David ??
Why do you think I left school before the end of term?
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Re: Accents of Housey pupils

Post by keibat » Sun Sep 20, 2015 4:43 pm

I arrived at Horsham in 1954 with a moderate Northern accent, coming from a teachers' family in Hull. I have no recollection of being mocked initially, but do remember quite vividly from a year later, talking about the summer hols, referring to a village in the Yorkshire Dales by its proper pronunciation, as 'Cassle Boalton' [written Castle Bolton], which provoked a burst of laafter [laughter]. Presumably within that first year, my routine Yorkshire vowels had unconsciously been southernized. But boys from Greater Thamesland predominated, and Estuary English speakers were under far less pressure to change, all the way through school.

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