Militant Vulgarity

“The whole act had seemed to me a minor manifestation of the great overriding, and indeed only, ideology of modern Britain, namely militant vulgarity, that is to say not vulgarity that is spontaneous, but vulgarity that is deliberate, planned, and evangelical in its fervor.

Is authentic uncouthness better or worse than the assumed variety?”

Theodore Dalrymple

Panama Papers

“The outrage that greeted the Mossack Fonseca revelations (actually, rather few so far) seems to me to partake more of joyous spite and hatred of the rich than of any real desire to improve the world, the latter being a much weaker emotion than the former. If the rich could be deprived of their wealth, even if no one else benefited thereby, I think many people would want it.”

Theodore Dalrymple

The Short A


I’m reading Theodore Dalrymple’s book, Life at the Bottom. It was very good until page 81 where he says “… with the glottal stop and other vocal mannerisms of the lower classes, such as the short in words like class and pass”. This is taken from his essay, Uncouth Chic, written in 1998.

This is nonsense. The glottal stop is one of the many things that has spread upwards from the speech of the uneducated, to become almost normal in British speech. It cannot be compared with the short A. It is the long A that has been incorrectly inserted into words like “class” and “pass”.

The lower classes (as he calls them) in the Southern areas he describes in his book use the long A as well. They may make it sound more like an “ar” sound than an “aa” sound, but it’s lengthened nonetheless. The long A is a Southern characteristic and one must not fall into the trap of thinking anything Southern is “posh” and anything Northern is not. Furthermore, the long A is plainly incorrect most of the time as a gander at a dictionary would tell you. I have seen some that would provide both “glaas” and “glass” as pronunciations of “glass”, but largely they have not yet modified themselves for this recent Southern linguistic domination.

Due to the influence of television (something Dalrymple decries elsewhere in his book), the lengthened A has spread out of the South to the bottom of society elsewhere. An educated Midlander is unlikely to lengthen an A, but the more common Eastenders-watching fool is quite likely to, especially if young. Outside of the South, the short A is indeed a signal, but one that indicates the complete opposite of what Dalrymple claims. Those still using the short A outside of the South are probably higher up the ladder than most and are likely to be quite far removed from the Southern and Southern-influenced bottom rung.

Life Through Fisheyes

What really caught my attention in the photograph, however, were the four pedestrians by the side of the road as the vehicle with the triumphant jihadists rode by. Three of them were taking pictures of the scene with their phones. It was as if what was happening was real for them only if seen though a lens and on a screen, or as if the world seen directly, not through a lens, was a little too strong for their eyes, like the sun.

It is possible that they thought they were recording for posterity, including their own, what they knew to be an historic moment, but I rather doubt it. No; they were taking pictures in exactly the same way that they, and millions of others, now take pictures of a meal in a restaurant or a holiday parade in a street. Where everything can be so easily recorded, all events are equal. Except, of course, that they are not.

Theodore Dalrymple

Unlike Dalrymple I think those people with their cellphone cameras knew they were videoing something, not historic, but prehistoric. The unwinding of civilization. The good news, if there is any, is that the unwinding is happening to them first.

Scott Angell