We once took our daughter, when she was very small, to a speech therapist because when she said the word ‘girls’ it sounded like ‘gills’.
We were highly anxious, overbearing parents that had taken it upon ourselves to be vigilant and well-meaning at every opportunity. It came as a bit of a shock when the speech therapist advised us that it was in fact my daughter’s accent.
What kind of accent was she developing? I don’t hear ‘gills’ on EastEnders or Corrie, it’s never popped up in The Archers or on Downton Abbey.
We were advised that it was potentially a very inner-city Hampshire-sounding word that was being enunciated. Sweet Lord. We’re originally from Dorset. Bournemouth was our city, Weymouth was for the beach holidays.
We’d moved house to Hampshire, our daughter was going to a huge inner city school. Could this be the price we have to pay?
After a discussion in the car on the way home, we committed to do our utmost and say ‘girls’ more clearly than a voice coach for King George VI.
Hanging on to language is an interesting concept. This week the New Oxford Dictionary added 'sumfin', to its latest edition as an alternative to 'something'.
This is, of course, madness and unstoppable. I tried with some enthusiasm to deter my children from using ‘like’ every other word.
I tried explaining how it changes the rhythm of good communication. My daughter explained that it was 'like' the way people spoke. It wasn’t, as it was 'how' she spoke. It was futile.
I wasn't able to come from a position of authority as I'd had to retake my English language qualification. As a teenager, I would have been the same. If my parents said anything then it probably wasn’t worth listening to.
Now, as a parent, I’m performing in the same way and achieving the same outcome. What’s happening to me as I get older?
I decided that it might be about judgment. I’m trying to mentor my brood to be able to communicate in a way that doesn’t allow too much space for others to judge.
I’m getting them ready for that job interview, where clear communication could be the deciding moment between yes and no. But I’ve managed okay. The minute I was at someone else's house, in a job interview, being questioned by authority, I would morph into an unrecognisable version of me that my parents rarely saw.
It’s ‘like’ it all turns out all right in the end. It’s 'sumfin' I need to accept. Innit.
Stay away from the terracotta!
Could it be the most divisive book in history? A book that can sever a relationship.
A book that reminds even the strongest couple they still, after many years together, have clear divisions. The book I fear more than any other is ... the Wallpaper Samples Book!
It arrived at the weekend and we began negotiations about the feature wall. I was instantly drawn to a burnt orange. My wife stated she hates terracotta.
However, I retreat as I’m now being offended by reflective silver. Not on my watch.
I change tack and find myself in the ‘shades of green’ section. I’m advised with some force that nothing green could ever go with our curtains.
Mrs N heads for textured wallpaper and even before the ‘what do you think of this’ I shout ‘anaglypta!’ and seem to have won the initial stand-off.
I can’t help but find myself drawn back like a moth to an orange flame. My wife spots this and asks, ‘could you stop looking at terracotta, we’re wasting time’.
After three days of holding sample books up against a wall, switching lights on and off and vigorous testing of possible accompanying soft furnishings, we’ve made a breakthrough. We’ve decided to go for a paper almost identical in colour to the current wall.