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Primary Education News
News Southerners accused of slovenly speech: from the archive, 6 August 1938
'As teachers we must do our best to preserve the best features of the King's English and to restrict the absorption of any element, whether from the drawing-room or from the gutter'
Strong criticism of the growth of slovenly speech in this country was made by Miss M. C. Cobby, the speech training mistress at Latymer School, Edmonton, when she addressed members of the City of London Vacation Course in Education at Bedford College, Regent's Park, yesterday.
"We endeavour daily," she said, "to inculcate habits of cleanliness and good behaviour in our children, so why not teach them also to speak well. We do not want pedantic speakers who always go one better than the required standard of speech. Nor do we want the people who pride themselves on being colloquial and who say, 'Joo-no-er?' for 'Do you know her?' Both these types of speakers are offensive. As teachers, therefore, we must do our best to preserve the best features of the King's English and to restrict the absorption of any element, whether from the drawing-room or from the gutter."
Miss Cobby declared that Southerners were the laziest speakers in this country, and told the students that they had only to listen to the Cockney bus conductor to know this. "It is terrible to think how slovenly we are becoming in our speech to-day," she continued. "Just listen to people taking their tickets on a bus and you will hear them say 'kew' instead of 'thank you,' and you hear people say 'gimme" instead of give me.'
Miss Cobby described how a child in a junior class, when writing a composition recently, asked her teacher, "How do you spell 'mayswell,' please?" The teacher said that she did not know the word, and asked the child where she had heard it, to which the child replied, "We went to see Auntie on Sunday, and after tea Mum said, 'Come on, we mayswell go home.'"
After years of experience, added Miss Cobby, she had come to the conclusion that they should not attempt to eradicate natural dialect. What they had to do was to make a child bilingual and teach him how to speak standard English as well as his own local dialect.
Mr. F. W. Chambers, who has been an inspector and head master of an elementary school, said that a good deal of inaccuracy in arithmetic among children arose from the fact that they could not concentrate for any length of time. He thought, therefore, that the type of arithmetic lesson where children were set to do something for half an hour on end was asking too much of the child.