My friend Nik (better known as the Funky Mother on DalianXpat.com) posted a fascinating story on the expat forum that got me thinking. It seems the historically recent butchery of English, as it's spoken by those who still have a queen, is the fault of those living at the very heart of that once-upon-a-time empire.
Who put the R in bath? Surely this is a trick question, you may think, there is no R in bath. But if you search hard enough in certain parts of Britain the rogue consonant is there - squatting erroneously between the A and the T.
So which linguistic criminals are to blame? The Americans? Nope. They may have been guilty of savagely stealing the U from honour, colour and glamour, and ruthlessly usurping poor S from its position among realise, organise and their lexical brethren so they could replace it with the rather radical Z, but we can't pin this one on the English-speakers across the pond. If we want to uncover who really put the R in bath we need look no further than England's great capital.
London, home of the Queen and the apparently "proper" English speakers, is actually to blame for the mutated pronunciation. According to an expert at the British Library, the Telegraph reports, the R sound in words such as laugh and bath only came about 150 years ago when Londoners adopted the trend into their speech. Apparently, the entire nation used the bath and "laff" pronunciations about 250 to 300 years ago -- a tradition which is still alive and kicking in northern England. The south gradually adopted an "aa" sound which, over time, became the familiar "barth" of the ubiquitous London and Home Counties drawl of today.
I'm glad she acquits us Yanks. I spent most of February traveling with Britons, two from Devon and a Welsh woman living in Birmingham. Half our conversations devolved into "why do you keep talking about your underwear?" and whether various parts of an automobile actually belonged on elephants or Amish women.
It became a quasi-nationalistic thing after a while. Who invented the language? Who rescued who in which world war? Where did the Beatles come from? Stupid, all of it.
We've all really made a mess of this language, I must say. Much of my speech, I realize, has become a mish-mash of Cali slang and verbosity better suited to concealing meaning than conveying it.
Then again, being straightforward all the time can be so dull.