BBC English like wot its spoke

There was a time when the BBC as a whole and BBC news in particular could be regarded as a paragon of good English and pronunciation.  No longer can this be taken for granted.  Indeed, I suspect there are BBC managers who derive pleasure from hearing and seeing mangled pronunciation, incorrect grammar and regional dialects that can come close to needing simultaneous translation. 

I viewed the BBC TV News at 9:00 am this morning.  A youngish journalist was talking about Julian Assange’s self-imposed incarceration in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Reporting on rumours that Assange was considering giving an interview outside the safe confines of diplomatic sanctuary, the young chap said “… if he walks out the door ….” omitting the “of” and he regularly pronounced the preposition “to” as “ter”.

A regular BBC howler, although not perpetrated on the news item this morning, is the phrase “….. he will try and agree a way forward … ” or same such like. Sadly, you may not know what is wrong here!  Well ….. the phrase is talking about a single action of attempting to agree an action and not two verbs connected by “and”.

Another howler is use of the word “free”.  We are frequently exorted to apply for something “for free”. “Free” is an adjective (free will); a verb (I will free the prisoner); and an adverb (you can go free). It is not a noun. So you can apply for a service “for nothing” or “which is free” but not “for free”.

If the BBC allows speech of this kind, people will come to the conclusion that it is acceptable. Indeed many will not know there is anything wrong. I can hear trendy liberals saying “there is nothing wrong” but I disagree. In a tough jobs market, applicants with good quality spoken and written English are much more likely to secure the job than those with sloppy diction.

I could suggest the BBC needs to go back to school but I fear there are far too many schools that would be very hard pressed to teach the standard of spoken and written English to which I think public broadcasting should aspire.


About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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1 Response to BBC English like wot its spoke

  1. Mark Griffin says:

    Entirely agree, another one is “secketry” as in “secketry of state for ejacashun”.

    But it’s not so much the mangled words as the regional dialect that I think is the real problem. I sometimes think I ought to learn sign language, then I could follow the signer’s interpretation if I can’t understand the newsreader’s English.

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