March 14, 2005


In response to Friday's post about Grammelot, Donal Lynch sent in a pointer to the British comedian Stanley Unwin. This BBC Unwin sampler offers two short passages in Unwinese about language. Here's my quick attempt at an orthographic transcription of the first one.

England joys all concentrate. Corruption of the English, well, English language. So manifest was so many careless. ((They mission it)) a sillibold, like "partic'ly". And ((intrudes ye)) an extra one, like "renovenate" instead of "renovate", as I heard by a zealous cockney who knowed it all. No bother, 'e think it, ((before)) out of the voice box he ho. Oh, no.

Corrections are welcome, since my linguistic and cultural background is inadequate to deal with some of this. For example, what I've transcribed as "intrudes ye" seems to be something like [ɪnˈtru.ʤi] in broad IPA (i.e. it rhymes with "tin fuji").

The practicioners of doubletal, comedic and otherwise, are legion. Their gobbledygook comes in many different forms -- perhaps there is a (folk-) taxonomy of doubletalk somewhere. In any case, doubletalk is often combined with bits of dialect or special spoken registers, perhaps because it's easier to persuade someone they're not quite getting it if the accent and other features index a form of speech that might have unexpected features.

Some more Unwin links: The World of Stanley Unwin; a BBC obit; some Stanley Unwin Transcripts; memorial at Bikwil.


Posted by Mark Liberman at March 14, 2005 06:15 AM