Wednesday, 1 April 2015

An Appeal

"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.


Graham Dew said...

So what's not like? So's so like like you know...

Nathan deGargoyle said...

When was the last time you heard a simple "Thank you" on R4. It always seems to be "Thank you very much indeed!" however minor a boon it was.

Mike C. said...


I still haven't decided what role "So" plays for these folk, who are often quite articulate. It's a new sort of throat-clearing noise, a bit like, "OK... In the 18th century etc."


I like the other end of the conversation, negotiating the use or not of "Good morning":

Humphrys: I'm joined now by the Minister for Something or Other. So, minister, it seems you've been lying to us all?
Minister: Good morning, John...
Humphrys: Yes, good morning, minister...
Minister: And how are you? And Mrs Humphrys, is she well?


Huw said...


I wonder if there is an actual increase in young ‘breathy’ voices or you’re just noticing it more as it grates so? Or if presenters (especially on 6 Music) are chosen for this quality, or perhaps despite it?

Apropos of nothing to do with this post I’ve just finished poring over ‘Landmark’ and wanted to thank you again for recommending it. The accompanying text by William Ewing is wonderfully dry and the pictures form a carefully considered progression, with many great individual shots. It exposed a preference of mine for pictures that are ‘straight’ or obvious (art?) creations, with a distaste for manipulations of straight pictures.

I have a great affection for John Davies ‘Gas Street Basin’ on p86 as I spent my teenage years in Birmingham and took many photos in Gas Street Basin on my father’s Pentax Spotmatic, learning b&w printing at night school. I still have some prints on my wall of the barges to the right of the picture.


Mike C. said...


It's not so much the breathiness as the childishness -- there simply seems to be a fashion for that buttoned-up sub-adult voice. Mystifying.

Glad you like "Landmarks" -- it's one of those rare collections that is more than the sum of its parts.


David Brookes said...


My pet hate is BBC female weather presenters who talk about it being "marled in Wells" - at least I think that's what they say, if not what they mean.

Poetry24 said...

Hang on, Mike, I'm still in mourning for Charlotte Green!

Mike C. said...


Just to redress the balance a bit, I have a bit of a wince whenever various Cheery Blokes do the weather or continuity -- the decision to invest "personality" into these semi-anonymous slots between programmes was a bad one. Rain is rain, and doesn't need cheering up with assorted "musn't grumble" cliches, much less apologising for...

Ah, Grumpy Old Men...


Mike C. said...


Nothing childish about Ms. Green's voice... Though that is probably your point!


Zouk Delors said...

So*, have you ever heard Paloma Faith talking? Singing? What a difference!

*I looked into this one once, and apparently it started with computer programmers a surprisingly long time ago.

Mike C. said...


I have to confess I've never even heard of her before... I'll look into it.