Professor of Elocution at the Kensington School of Music
Mutilation of the English Language - The Trilled" - The Combination of "th"
There is always a tendency to forget that in the words where, when, white, what, whether, wheel, etc., there happens to be an "h" after the "w," and they turn into were, wen, wite, wot, wether, weal, etc., respectively.
Should the "h" in these words be over emphasised, speech immediately becomes affected and unnatural, but there should be a suggestion of the letter in order to differentiate between were and where, wight and white, wether and whether, and weal and wheel.
These are cases in point of the mutilation of our language.
Dropping the Final "g"
This is, unfortunately, not confined solely to the uneducated classes, and people are to be met with on every hand who consider it "good form" to say "Mornin" for "Good-morning," and so on through all their conversation, never once realising that beauty of form is just as necessary in speech as in other arts.
It is a strange thing to say, but nevertheless true, that many people labour under the impression that certain forms of defective speech have a fascination all their own, and consequently they adopt a lisp or cultivate the sound "w" instead of "r," thereby-mutilating their words after the same manner as the cockney, though with less excuse, seeing that they have had the advantage of education in literature, which he has lacked.
This habit is often formed in childhood, and allowed to pass by parents, who think it "so sweet" to hear the baby-talk, and wanting the foresight which will see the difficulty of correcting that which is imperfect in future days.
The Trilled "r"
A certain set thus grow up' with the idea that "round" should be pronounced "wound"; "really," "weally"; "roaring," "woawing," etc., converting all the "r" sounds into characterless mumblings. Surely, this consonant is one of the most forceful. Change the "r" in "cruel" into "w," and instead of a word pregnant with meaning, you have at once one that is merely insipid.
In the same way, to speak of the
"woawing of the sea" would give no idea of the tumbling waves on the shore hurling themselves defiantly at the cliffs which bar their progress, whereas the very word " roaring," spoken with the trilled "r's," gives at once a very vivid mental picture, and an aural sound of their restless action.
There are pitfalls with regard to trilling the "r." For instance, to say "hear-r-r-t" for " heart " is quite as mistaken as saying "wude" for "rude," and is usually one of the peculiarities of the dialects of the northern counties and Scotland. In singing, the "r" is occasionally sounded before a consonant, but it should not be so in speech, the rule being that before a consonant the "r" is not trilled, nor at the end of a word, unless the next begins with a vowel, as-" War alarms the country," the "r" in war would be slightly rolled. In a word with a vowel following the "r" the "r" is sounded, for example, as in the word " rage."
There is an idea abroad that to sound the "r" is affected, and therefore to be avoided as unnatural, or so slurred as to take from if its natural robustness. If only due thought were given to words with the "r" pronounced correctly, it would be seen immediately how much they are enhanced by its invigorating influence.
"With" or "Wiv"
Of course, there are people who cannot sound "r" owing to some defect in the mouth or tongue, and with them "s" also puts a fresh impediment in their way, developing into the sound "th" instead of the sibilant, and " hissing serpents" will become "hithing therpenths." "Z" is another consonant which, being similar to "s" though having a deeper tone, presents some difficulty to the person who lisps.
To return to the faults of the cockney. It has been seen how he mutilates his vowel sounds, clipping or adding to them whenever possible, and also, how the consonants "n" and " m " are spoken with the nasal cavities closed.
There are two more consonants which, coming in conjunction one with another, permit him to form his favourite habit of clipping, and these sounds, "th" by name, are converted into "f" or " v " as the case may be. For instance, a cockney will pronounce mother as "muvver," "with" as "wiv," and "threw" as "frew." Certainly the combination "th" is a difficult one, and foreigners rarely surmount it. To be continued