Pronunciation governs our regional and social identity more powerfully than any other aspect of spoken language. No wonder, then, that it has attracted most attention from satirists. In this intriguing book, David Crystal shows how our feelings about pronunciation today have their origins in the way our Victorian predecessors thought about the subject, as revealed in the pages of the satirical magazine, Punch.
In the sixty years between its first issue in 1841 and the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, jokes about the fashions affecting English usage provide one of Punch's most fruitful veins of humour, from the dropped aitches of the Cockney accent to the upper-class habit of dropping the final 'g' (huntin' and fishin').
For 'We Are Not Amused', David Crystal has examined all the issues during the reign of Queen Victoria and brought together the cartoons and articles that poked fun at the subject of pronunciation, adding a commentary on the context of the times, explaining why people felt so strongly about accents, and identifying which accents were the main source of jokes.
The collection brings to light a society where class distinction ruled, and where the way you pronounced a word was seen as a sometimes damning index of who you were and how you should be treated. It is a fascinating, provocative and highly entertaining insight into our on-going amusement at the subject of how we speak.