Aug 112012

I’m a huge fan of Lynne Murphy’s blog: separated by a common language where she delves into all sorts of interesting differences between British and American English. I’m also a huge fan of TED videos, and obviously I’m interested in linguistic politeness and British and ‘merican – it’s what this blog is about.

Well guess what! A TED talk by Lynne on linguisitic politeness and British and ‘merican has just arrived on youtube. Hurrah! Enjoy!

 Posted by at 10:09 pm

  9 Responses to “Lynne Murphy on TEDxSussexUniversity”

  1. Vicki:
    Thanks for putting up this Lynne Murphy piece. I’ve read all her stuff, and as I know you agree, she really knows her stuff! It’s unfortunate about the up-lighting on the video; not only did it make her look weird, it distracted from what she was saying, all of which was worth listening to.

  2. I’m a big fan too, but I never heard her voice before. What a hybrid: foundationally American, but with /ɒ/ in LOT words and /əʊ/ in GOAT words, and very noticeable [t] between vowels, as in British. I suppose these are adaptations to not being understood, since she retains such obvious American shibboleths as rhotic pronunciation, which are never going to interfere with comprehension.

    I love how she says “pryvacy, or privvacy if you prefer”; then later it’s “privvacy”, and later “pryvacy” again.

    Another favorite (and very important) bit at 11:58: “If I tell you I like your shoes, or even if I like your idea, it doesn’t mean I like you.” (Huge laugh from the audience) “It means that I found something that we can have a sense of belonging about, that we can have a sense of valuing each other about, that we can progress in our communication from there, so it established some good will in our conversation.”

  3. Thanks for posting this, Vicki. We’re mutual fans! 🙂

  4. Oh it was a delight, Lynne.
    And I was so glad to hear you speaking about thanking because it helped me understand some things you’d written elsewhere.
    When translating British manuscripts into ‘merican we found we often had to turn ‘sorrys’ into ‘thank yous’, and as a Brit in America, I’ve been conscious that I’ve needed to say ‘thank you’ in places where I wouldn’t in the UK. This seemed contradictory to what I’ve seen you write elsewhere about ‘thank yous’ being more prevalent in BrE. But I think what’s been happening here is I’ve been conscious of the genuine thank you rate increasing and haven’t noticed all the segment-marker thank yous disappearing. Ha! Well I wouldn’t, would I? They’d be subliminal to a Brit! 🙂

  5. Oh John, that’s so interesting. I wonder what you’d make of may accent after 14 years in the US. Most people comment on how British I sound, but I know there are transatlantic influences. Several years after moving here I went to a meeting at Oxford University Press. When the business was done at the end of the meeting, they sat there and dissected my speech patterns and accent, ha! I was amazed by the tiny things they picked up on. Forensic linguistics is powerful so my advice to everyone is never attend meetings with astute linguists if you want to be incognito.

  6. Here’s an excerpt from Scene 2 of Shaw’s play Village Wooing. The missing apostrophes are Shaw’s. Both characters are English, but A is rather eccentric!

    A. I want a packet of milk chocolate–

    Z. Thanks very much.

    A. [continuing]–a couple of hard apples–

    Z. Thanks very much. [She comes out through the counter to get them from the sack].

    A. [continuing]–quarter of a pound of Cheddar cheese–

    Z. Thanks very much.

    A. Dont interrupt me. You can express your gratitude for the order when I have finished. Quarter of a pound of your best butter, a small loaf of Hovis, and two-pennyworth of sugared almonds.

    Z. Anything else?

    A. No, thank you.

    Z. Thanks very much [she goes back through the counter to cut and weigh the butter and cheese].

    He sits down watching her deft but leisurely proceedings.

    A. Do you sell baskets?

    Z. We sell everything. Hadnt you better have a string bag? It’s handier; and it packs away almost to nothing when it’s empty.

    A. What is a string bag? Shew me one.

    Z. [coming out and taking one down] This is the cheapest. Or would you like a better quality with a Zip fastening?

    A. Certainly not. I should have the trouble of opening and shutting it, and the worry of wondering whether it would open or shut, with no compensatory advantage whatever.

    Z. Thats just like you. Youre not a bit changed.

    A. What do you mean? I have been in this shop for less than two minutes. Why should I have changed in that time?

    Z. Excuse me: I shouldnt have mentioned it. Will you take a string bag?

    A. Yes.

    Z. Thanks very much. Shall I put the rest of the order into it?

    A. Of course. What else do you suppose I am buying it for? Have you any buttermilk?

    Z. Sorry. We dont stock it.

    A. Any ginger beer?

    Z. Yes. We have a very good local brew.

    A. Shove a bottle into the string bag.

    Z. Thanks very much.

    A. How many times a day do you say thanks very much?

    Z. Depends on the number of orders.

    A. Dont say it to me again, if you dont mind. It gets on my nerves.

    Z. It used to get on mine, at first. But I am used to it.

  7. Sorry, I forgot to link it: Village Wooing. It’s a very late Shaw play, premiering in 1934.

  8. Wow John, what a gem of a quote! What can I say but, thank you, thank you, thank you so much for sharing it. I’ve always thought of Shaw as an ideas man – so the guy whose plays were about ideas and concepts – but here’s a wonderful example of how acutley he was tuned in to speech patterns. I shall be using this in future talks. Just love it!

  9. […] You’ve been investigating small talk in British fiction, Marija? How interesting! I wonder if folks have any ideas. I think the British use of ‘thank you’  is very interesting. Maybe Lynne Murphy will inspire you? […]

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