Just saw My Fair Lady and instead of being bored/annoyed by all the singing, I actually enjoyed it. For something that came out in 1964, it’s still a relevant commentary on class consciousness and sociolinguistics.
Having spent my entire life in private school, I related the most to Professor Henry Higgins’ character. (I went through 18 or so years of being taught that there is an “us” and there is a “them,” which is why I’m sort of obsessed with the US public school system. I often wonder what it’s like anthropologically. But I digress.) He’s a bit of a snob and a jerk, and his douchiness is more left-brained than emotional. Not an excuse, but still.
Americans, used to meritocracy, will never understand how society can base its treatment of a person purely on his or her accent, as this notion of class is more prevalent in Europe. On the other hand, social mobility — “upwardly mobile self-transformation,” as Adam Haslett put it — is a lot more difficult in the UK than it is in the US.(More in this FT article, “The class ceiling”.)
I find it both appalling and fascinating that I somehow have the ability to tell where you’re from based on your accent. (There was even a time when I was able to detect which private school you attended — or didn’t — based on your speech. I also have the gift, if you could call if that, of determining which part of London (or England, for that matter) you reside. Same goes for Spanish: I can differentiate a Peruvian, Venezuelan or Colombian lilt from an Argentinian, Cuban or Mexican one. I’ve always found it easy.) Now I’m trying to figure out how to turn this into a lucrative career!
PS: And if I still seem uptight, how I am on Tumblr is already me being not uptight. You should meet some of my friends (or my uncles)!