Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

Whose English is it anyway?


Note the Queen’s any more:

‘ . . But just at the point when he is in danger of conflating too many things, of appearing like an old fizzle out of step with modern times, (Martin Engels) finds a reason to be cheerful. In the autumn of 2013, the head teacher of a secondary school in Upper Norwood, insisted that her students could no longer use a list of banned words including “basically”, “bare” and “extra”. Apparently, these are all part of “multicultural London English”, or MLE*, a polyglot of black British vernacular garnished with some white working-class slang, British South Asian phrases and the occasional dash of Polish and Somali.

The head teacher was worried that, by persisting in using MLE, her students were spoiling their chances at job and college interviews. Unless they could learn to talk proper – talk in Americanised English in other words – they risked exiling themselves from the modern world. But to Engel’s jaded ears MLE is glorious evidence of a youthful resistance to imported ready-made language in favour of something authentic and home-brewed. Never has “innit” sounded quite so close to poetry.

• That’s the Way It Crumbles is published by Profile. To order a copy for £14.44 (RRP £16.99) go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.’


* . . a sociolect of English that emerged in the late 20th century. It is spoken authentically by working-class, mainly young, people in London . .  it can contain elements from "learners’ varieties of English, Englishes from the Indian subcontinent and Africa, Caribbean creoles and Englishes along with their indigenised London versions (Sebba 1993), local London and south-eastern vernacular varieties of English, local and international youth slang, as well as more levelled and standard-like varieties from various sources." . . ‘
See also:

‘Today we speak of "BBC English" as a standard form of the language, but this form had to be invented by a small team in the 1920s & 30s. 1 . .  ’ - a tweetstorm!

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