The difference between English and Scots pronunciation (Letters, 22 February) cost me the top place in an army trade exam nearly 60 years ago, and it still rankles.
Newly graduated and into national service at Aldershot, my squad was told in a simple test to write down a word meaning “to labour” that rhymed with “shirk”. I immediately ruled out “work” and spent a fruitless few minutes trying to identify another synonym that rhymed with “shirk”.
That was my undoing: the answer was “work”. If you adopt a southern English accent you can can see how they got it.
I had my revenge many years later when taking part in an international conference in Germany along with an English colleague. Fortunately for us two, English was the language being used. But the continentals asked the English participant if he could please speak Scottish-English like Mr Broom as they found me much easier to understand!
Traquair Park West
Avoch? Milngavie? Kilconquhar? Farquhar? Wemyss? How are these pronounced? Pronunciation is a regional, local, personal phenomenon. I have long since given up correcting people (teaching habits die hard!) although I do, on occasion, shout at the television.
How many “sentimmers” are in a “killometter”? I can recollect our local post mistress saying that she had been asked by the then-existing unit of the BBC for advice on the local pronunciation of “awkward” local names.
Her name was Miss Menzies (so pronounced). One of her postmen (no relation) was Tam Mingus (spelt Menzies)!
I now regard “propuh English” (Received Pronunciation) as a dialect, like Glaswegian or Lochgelly speak.
I recollect that in the preface to the textbook we used to teach Pitman’s Shorthand we were advised that certain words had to be “written as spelt, not as pronounced”! These included “iron” and “park”.
And then there was the poor foreign visitor to London who was having a hard time with his phrase-book English. When he saw a poster advertising a West End show thus “Cavalcade-pronounced success”, he gave up!
Regarding Harry D Watson letter (21 February) about dialects, I wasn’t being anti- English. Most of the bad pronunciation comes from Scottish presenters!