"Odd, from the back she looks perfectly normal..."
I'm in a campaigning mood, so this is an appeal to the BBC, particularly those with responsibility for talk radio, with regard to a number of important matters.
First, young women with childish voices. A lisp may have a certain cute-factor when deployed by an 8-year old. Even then, it is a pretty emetic, Shirley Temple kind of cute. I listen to a lot of radio, and I'm hearing more and more young women speaking in a distinctly child-like manner, using a high, breathy register, and an over-distinct, mannered pronunciation, up to and including lisped sibilants. So many of the younger female guests on, say, BBC Radio 4 Today sound about twelve. It's the speech equivalent of one of those dreadful semi-military overcoats that royal girl-children were buttoned into in the 1940s, or white ankle socks. Sometimes, it can sound as if the BBC has been overrun by the progeny of Violet Elizabeth Bott (you know, "I'll thcream and thcream until I'm thick!").
It's clearly a fashionable thing, and I'm not sure why this has come about. Perhaps it's a reaction to hyper-masculine young male laddishness. Perhaps it's an offshoot of that faux-naive, croaky-feeble singing voice that you hear everywhere now (yes, you, Laura Marling). Or -- whisper it -- maybe kawaii, the dreaded Japanese Cult of Cute, has finally taken ineradicable root on these shores, like knot-weed? But, wherever it's coming from, it's up to you, BBC, to put a stop to it. Insist on grown-ups, please. Get Mishal Husain to give them a severe talking-to.
Second, tutting. There's been an outbreak of tutting and lip-smacking, as a form of aural punctuation. Weather-forecast presenters do it, magazine-programme presenters do it. Even certain Today and World at One regulars have started doing it. [smack!]. Radio is an intimate medium, and these noises are intrusive, unpleasant to listen to, and give an air of smugness to everything ("Tut! There, wasn't that clever?"). There are a number of reasons Paddy O'Connell is not my favourite radio presenter, and this is one of them.
Next: the use of So at the beginning of every response to a question by academics. So I'm finding it very annoying. So I don't understand why they think it helps. So get Melvyn Bragg on the case; In Our Time would be a very good place to start.
Also, now the election is in full swing, could we start a Radio 4 "glottal stop jar" for middle-class politicians, starting with Ed Balls? A pound for every ludicrously misplaced "ʔ" would soon sort it out. Let Alan Johnson be the judge, as an appropriate punishment for not running for leadership of the Labour Party.
And finally, Robert Peston... Why, BBC, why?
Thank you for your attention.