Thursday, May 28, 2015

Against Intralingual Diversity (A Boswellian-Johnsonian Syllabus--Part II)

Yet again—i.e., for the ninth or tenth time in at least as many years--I am obliged to begin an essay on a personal note.  I say (or, rather, write) “obliged,” because it is not for want of having tried to begin on an impersonal note, and indeed in this case to continue on that selfsame impersonal note (or, rather, in the impersonal vein that that selfsame impersonal note was compelled by idiomatic exigencies to metamorphose into after the first hundred or so words) for several dozens of pages, that I am doing otherwise.  You see, DGR, at bottom, von Natur aus, I consider myself either a teacher or preacher, meaning somebody who is not in the slightest degree interested in himself as a subject (or object) of discourse, who is interested not only exclusively but preeminently in states of affairs outside himself; who, moreover, has some deeply held and firmly fixed convictions about these states of affairs and wishes to impress these convictions on others whether or not these others have the slightest interest in having these truths impressed on them.  My ideal milieu or native element is the forecourt of the used car dealership, and more specifically the hood of the most expensive car in the lot, against which I positively revel in slamming one side of the hapless punter’s head as I repeatedly scream into the other side, “You gonna buy this foookin’ car or what, chief?” until he either answers “Yes,” or slips into unconsciousness. “Hang about, guv.  Since when do teachers and preachers flog used cars?”  Well, admittedly, since never, and admittedly my real ideal milieu or native element is not the forecourt of the used car dealership but the fireside of an Oxbridge tutor’s office, at which I tweedily puff away on my briar pipe whilst jovially querying my inner circle of adoring students, “That’s quite a jolly gobsmacking googly Jenkins has just bowled us, what what?”  But in this setting I am every bit as uninterested in talking about myself, in dispensing confessional revelations, as the hard-selling used car dealer is, and I am every bit as desirous as he is of wringing unqualified assent from my interlocutors.   The difficulty with trying to operate in this impersonal and apodictic mode in this void perhaps by now only formerly known as the blogosphere is—as I have just had occasion to discover yet again, after penning several thousand words in that mode in the teeth of my own caveats against doing so—that you are bound to come across neither as a hard-selling used car salesman nor as a genial Oxbridge don, but rather as just some shirtless, beardy, wee-soaked, imaginary fly-swatting loony.  If you don’t believe me, dear gentle reader (and prospective very expensive used car purchaser-cum-adoring inner circular student of mine), then why don’t you just cock a shufti at what I was actually trying to do in this selfsame I-cum-A mode in the earlier version of this essay, namely (please make sure you are sitting down and holding on to your hat if you wear one) to depreciate (not deprecate, although I do deprecate them as well) the linguistic folkways of both the majority of the population of the United Kingdom and a substantial minority of the population of the United States.  To put it another and more specific way, I was trying to argue (impersonally and apodictically) that any person on either side of the Pond who habitually spoke (or should that be “speaks”?) English in any sort of quant and quirky dialect or accent was (or should that be “is”?) not only a lout but also a phony.  Seriously, DGR, can you get your head around not only the sheer cheek and hoot’s pah but also the sheer, cussed barminess of the attempt?  I mean, it is one thing, albeit an already virtually institutionalizable thing or piece of behavior, to set up shop as an impersonal and apodictic grammar-cum-usage maven, to start heavy-handedly holding forth about whether it is permissible to split infinitives, to use “hopefully” interchangeably with “it is to be hoped,” autc.  For in that mavenly capacity you may assume your readership—meaning both the people who are going to be reading and the people whose behavior you wish to correct—to consist of people who have a certain idea of themselves and of their relationship to the English language, people who feel that it is their goshdamn moral duty as so-called educated men and women to maintain that language as a so-called clear and effective instrument of communication and are in principle willing to submit to any rule provided it can be shown to make that language more (or at least no less) crystal brandy snifter- or steel wool scouring pad-esque.  Hence the worst, which is to say, the most damning or colorfully worded, protest you are going to hear from them is “Who the heck are you to dictate to us that ‘hopefully’ can’t be used interchangeably with ‘it is to be hoped’?  It gets the job done: it makes the English language a good deal more steel wool scour pad-esque even if at the cost of making it a tad less crystal brandy snifter-esque.  So screw you, Mr. Nobody!”  At worst, you may be expected to be dismissed as a prescriptivist fuddy-duddy—tiresome in the extreme, but also ultimately eminently sane.  And no amount of self-disclosure is ultimately likely to enhance or degrade your credibility or persuasiveness by much: you may reveal to your readers that you are a full professor of linguistics at Oxbridge or Ivy League University X, and all but the most servile toadies of academic prestige among them them are likely to object, “So what?  At the end of the bottom, a linguist is just another user of the language like Joe Blog(g)s”; you may reveal that you are only Joe Blog(g)s,a high school dropout and retired janitor, and even the just-mentioned ever-so-servile toadies of academic prestige are likely grudgingly concede, ‘Well, you don’t really need to be a full professor of linguistics at an Oxbridge or Ivy League University to know that splitting infinitives is wrong or that “hopefully” should never be used interchangeably with “it is to be hoped.”  Now I in the first draft of this essay was not attempting to set up impersonal and apodictic shop as a grammar-cum-usage maven; I was attempting, rather, to set up I. and A. S. as an essential depreciator (and contingent deprecator) of such linguistic and peri-linguistic phenomena as the pronunciation of “us” as a near-homophone of “ooze,” the omission of the terminal “s” in the first element of non-periphrastic possessive constructions, the substitution of past-tense for past-participial forms, and the use of “sat” in place of “sitting.”  One might as well set up shop as the purveyor of a nest of hornets infested by five or so different hornet-tribes; of a sort of hornetic Big Brother house, as it were.  For the collection of vices against which I tried impersonally and apodictically to inveigh (and whose collective character I doubtlessly futilely attempted to encapsulate in the catalogue of two sentences ago) is, from a present-day practical point of view, a mere congeries of mutually unrelated elements, the stigmatization of each of which is guaranteed to set off its own antagonistic reaction in its own sub-population of the Anglophone so-called community.  The pronouncer of “us” as a near-homophone of “ooze,” for example, is not unlikely to be an Oxbridge-accredited academic specialist in one of the human sciences, someone whose so-called line of work requires him to at least to pay lip service to the idearrof—or, rather--sorry about that, loov--idea of—English as a so-called C&E I of C and who might even or very well raise a glass of port in salute of an invective against the split infinitive or the use of “hopefully” interchangeably with “it is to be hoped.”  In any case, he is bound to regard his pronunciation of “us” as a completely separate matter from his grammar and usage and to take extensive or deep umbrage—or, more likely, “oombrage”—at any suggestion that it should be tarred with the same brush—or, more likely, “broosh”—as them.  As for terminal “s”-dropping and irregular past participle-jettisoning, these are errors that any frequenter of the so (and perhaps only formerly)-called blogoophere will regard as too gross and easily avoidable to merit stigmatization.  This is not to say that he or she (i.e., the just-mentioned everyblogreader) denies that such errors are ever committed, but that he or she regards the habitual committers of them as exempt from criticism because of their presumed affiliation with a supposedly privilege-deprived race or class, from both of which both (s)he and the blog’s author will be presumed to be as distant as, well, erm, puce from orange, or the top floor of a really tall building from its basement.  And as for the substitution of “sat” for “sitting”—well, it is indeed a barbarism of a sort a grammar-cum-usage maven is expected to get riled up about, but it is also, like the pronunciation of “us” as a near-homophone of “ooze,” an exclusively UK-prevalent phenomenon, and any Yank (e.g., the present writer) who dares to animadvert against it will be eyed from across the Pond with a combination of resentment and suspicion—resentment at being dictated to by a native speaker of the junior dialect and suspicion of his motives.  Why, after all, the reasoning goes, should an American care—i.e., give a proverbial monkey’s bum--whether the English spoken in Great Britain (and Northern Ireland) is grammatically correct according to his Stateside lights?
Hence the need for beginning on a personal note.  I cannot for the so-called life of me see any means of persuading the reader of the necessity of lumping all these phenomena together under a single opprobrious heading of Pernicious Linguistic Charlatanry apart from a thorough itemization of the ways and capacities in which I do not fit into received opinion’s divers metalinguistic categories and am therefore entitled to flout that selfsame received opinion and to offer not a modest but an unabashedly bumptious corrective to it.  Mind you, in so doing I shall not be asserting any special or exceptional, let alone unique insight into these phenomena—quite to the contrary, I believe that there are millions, if not quarter-milliards, of people who have been afforded the exact same insight as I have by courtesy of a roughly consubstantial (if perforce hardly exact) set of biographical circumstances.  Why, then, do they not speak up—speak up, that is, vis-à-vis the collectivity of Pernicious Linguistic Charlatanry, rather than cherry-pickingly vis-à-vis the sector thereof allotted to them by received metalinguistic opinion?  This is a question that I shall only be able to answer once I have gotten to the Johnsonian-Boswellian core of this quasi-essay or non-oral lecture, for the principal insight to be afforded by today’s selection from the Boswellian-Johnsonian corpus is that it is possible to have a more or less complete sense of the meta-linguistic big picture and still connive quite enthusiastically and shamelessly at linguistic charlatanry.  But this is an insight that can be afforded only in hindsight, the hindsight of the subsequent roughly two-and-a-half subsequent centuries of the history of the English language tout entier, a history that in turn regrettably seems approachable only via the abovementioned-to-death personal note—because it is after all the history of a single language (incidentally, the whole canting, carping pseudo-academic pseudo-tradition that there is not one English but a multitude—certainly at least a myriad—of “Englishes” is a locus classicus of Pernicious Linguistic Charlatanry), which can be recounted or described only by a person with the galled huevos to assert that he can “survey” that language in its present and previous states “with extensive view” from the time of Beowulf to that of Gene Wolfe, from Orient City, Greater London to Lima, Ohio, and I am indeed, a person possessed of such huevos.
“This talk of your huevos is not exactly the sort of personal note I was expecting.”
No, of course ittisn’t, and quite rightly so, so please let me keep going, in doing which I shall move on to the sort of personal note you doubtless were expecting, thus:  In declaring that I have a serviceably comprehensive, internationally vagrant knowledge of our tongue, I am hardly laying claim to the brilliance or indefatigable snoopiness of a Henry Higgins; rather, I am laying claim merely to having grown up amid the sorts of mutually far-flung instances of English usage available to virtually all children in North America of the late twentieth century.  Like the rest of this virtual all, I had access to a public borrowing library and a succession of school libraries, and a substantial percentage of these libraries’ holdings were books that had been written, edited, and published in the British Isles (albeit often printed in Hong Kong) and that conformed to British orthographical, grammatical, and lexical norms.  And so I learned fairly early on, say by the age of seven, that some evidently literate adults in this world spelled “color” as “colour,” used single quotation marks (i.e., inverted commas) instead of double ones, wrote “got” sometimes instead of “gotten,” and indeed preferred “learnt” to “learned” and “spelt” to “spelled.”  And like virtually all children in North America of the late twentieth century, I had access to a television set.  “Surely you meant to write, ‘…like a substantial if hardly overwhelming majority of children in North America of the late twentieth century, I had access to cable television, which, though not quite free, was still less expensive than the combined cost of our subscriptions to the New York Times and New Yorker,’ thereby unwittingly outing yourself as a member of the American upper-middle class.”  No, I didn’t.  I meant write what I meant to write, and thereby to imply that I had access exclusively to ordinary, over-the-air broadcast television.  “You don’t mean—[gasp of appallment]”  --Yes, I mean to the now universally incredulously anathemized four channels—although I suppose by my day in my market there must have been something like six of them.  And between (or should that be among?) them, these six offered thousands of hours a year of British English as spoken by hundreds of British actors hailing from every corner of the Empire and all (by then) half-dozen decades of combined non-silent film and television history.  From Channel 44’s Saturday afternoon Creature Feature broadcasts of the 1960s Hammer horror films one got used to hearing the Britogenetic diction of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee almost every week.  And this same Channel 44’s daily reruns of the 1960s American sitcom Bewitched treated one to the voices of Maurice Evans and the man who played Dr. Bombay almost every day.  Then there were the countless appearances of British actors on so-called prime time network television and reruns of such programs in syndication—Peter Cook as the butler on The Two of Us, Sebastian Cabot as the housekeeper on Family Affair, et al.  By my late single digits, my ear for British accents had become so well developed, so acute, and sensitive and nuanced, that I could instantly tell when such an accent was being faked by an American—notably by the actor who played the eponyms’ next-door neighbor Mr. Bentley on The Jeffersons.  And throughout this period I never had trouble identifying the normal or average British accent, the one spoken by Britishers who were not to be singled out as criminals or destitutically poor, the accent spoken indifferently by actors playing not only cabinet ministers, bishops, and judges, but also estate agents, accountants, librarians, secretaries, plumbers, and shop clerks.  This was the accent spoken by the likes of John Cleese, Carol Cleveland, Ronnie Corbett, David Niven, Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, and Robert Hardy.  To be sure, I was exposed to plenty of other British accents, but an actor’s speaking in such an accent always seemed to imply that there was in one way or another something wrong with the character he or she was playing.  “You mean, in other words, that it implied that he or she was of the working class.”  No I assuredly do not, or at any rate, I do not mean that it preeminently implied that particular class affiliation.  Sometimes it simply implied a certain indefinable sort of oddballness, for example that of young Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant Igor (pr. “Eye Gore”) in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein, as expressed in the easygoing, low-key Cockney accent employed by his portrayer Marty Feldman, or by the obscure portrayer of the Doctor’s old friend and mysteriously backgrounded fellow Time Lord Drax in the Doctor Who serial The Armageddon Factor.  Most often such accents seemed to connote a certain shiftiness, an ever-active disposition to pull a fast one on their fellow dramatis personae, on the part of their speakers.  One remembers quite vividly such quirkily accented embodiers of this disposition as Sam Seeley, a broad West Country-accented poacher in the Doctor Who serial Spearhead from Space (what he was doing in the decidedly non-West Country Home County of Middlesex was never explained) who would answer every cross-examiner’s question about what he had claimed to have seen or been up to with a peremptory and indefeasible riposte of “Oi didn’t say thaht sirrr, did oi?”  Not to mention the various caffeinated-nasal Cockney accented fiddlers and finaglers played by Eric Idle on Monty Python’s Flying Circus—the bumptious bounder who made no apologies for crashing a young couple’s private tryst on the grounds that he had met the male half “in [a] bar three years ago”; the professionally smarmy snob of a salesman who frankly averred that he “couldn’t help” prospective customers hailing from the “lower class”; and of course the tiresomely bumptious Mr. Nudge-Nudge Wink-Wink, who harried a hapless bowler-hatted pub punter with intrusive personal questions for five minutes straight by way of masking his sexual inexperience.  And speaking of Monty Python, I am reminded of a third category of non-standard accented characters—viz., those who spoke in such an accent as a gesture of sheer inexplicable absurdity, for example the Graham Chapman-portrayed factory-hand in the “Yorkshire 1914” sketch who walks into an Edwardian (or perhaps early-Georgian) drawing room and announces something in incomprehensibly broad Yorkshire dialect to the mistress of the house (Carol Cleveland), who being completely unable to understand him, asks him to repeat himself; whereupon he re-utters the sentence (“One of the cross-beams has gone out of skew on the shuttle”) in the above-mentioned standard accent, and all is made clear.  It is as if here the Pythons are saying, “We know that this unintelligible patois is supposed to be what is or was once spoken in Yorkshire, but we know full well that nobody could ever have actually spoken it, that its regular employment by living Yorkshiremen would have made it impossible to attend to the most basic exigencies of everyday life in the Yorkshire of sixty years ago, let alone today.”
“This is quite a fascinating congeries of clips from the Silver Age of British television.  But what, pray tell, is the point of it?”
The point of it, as I thought I had already established before launching into it, is that even as a young nipper of a Yank who had never left the American New South (such that on reflection I conclude that for disambiguation’s sake I would perhaps have done better to describe myself as a Cracker than as a Yank), let alone lived in Blighty, I was conversant with the whole scale, the entire gamut, the full Renaissance (that’s ReNAIssance not RENaissance, naturally) bit, of late twentieth-century British pronunciation and usage.
“Ah, but that, as any Welshman would say, is where you’re wrong, boyo.  What you are taking for an untrammeled, immediate, and comprehensive scale, gamut, and bit was in fact a highly selective and distorted misrepresentation of the linguistic landscape of the United Kingdom, a misrepresentation deliberately and calculatedly promulgated by the upper middle-class Home Counties-centred British Establishment.  The fact that only shifty, oddball, or absurd characters spoke in what you have (wrongly, in my view) termed non-normal accents was merely a manifestation of the Establishment’s anxiety—nay, outright terror in the face of—the perfectly normal people who actually spoke those accents in the real late twentieth-century British world, specifically a terror directed at their class affiliation, at their affiliation with the working class.”
Ah, but that is where I suspect you are wrong, sir, as any both normal and polite person in any part of the Anglosphere would say.  I suspect that you are wrong about this British Establishment-sponsored and powered foist or conspiracy firstly (and major premise-esquely) because if any American ever has been entitled to claim an affiliation with the working class by birthright, that American was my boyhood self, the implied spectator of the aforementioned late twentieth-century British televisual offerings, and secondly (and minor premise-esquely) because this distinction between normal-accented normal people and oddly accented weirdoes, hucksters, and absurdos, was one that corresponded to, mapped without so much as a micrometer of extraterritorial slip-showage on to, my boyhood perception of the exactly contemporaneous Stateside-genetic televisual landscape.  As to my working-class credentials: my father was a construction pipe-fitter in Florida, a so-called Right-to-Work state, meaning one in which union membership conferred no economic privilege, my mother a secretary at a small firm of psychiatrists etc.; red meat was a luxury served only at Christmas and on alternate Presidents’ Days; my brother and I qualified for free school lunches; our back-to-school wardrobe consisted of hand-me-downs from our older and richer cousins, etc./Zzzzz…  Seriously, nothing bores me more than retailing my working-class credentials, but if they are not retailed, it will be assumed that I attended Andover as a full tuition-paying legacy pupil.  And then, as to the linguistic landscape of American television of those days—well, at its center or greatest extent, the places occupied by all the so (and rightly) called normal people spoke the same accent-cum-dialect that I spoke, viz. the so (and rightly) called standard American accent-cum-dialect.  This is the accent-cum-dialect in which all “r”s are given their full value, in which can’t is pronounced to rhyme with pant and not paint, in which done is used exclusively in compound tenses and did exclusively in the simple past tense, an accent-cum-dialect to the users of which the preterite sur-conditional (“if I would have known that…”) is as incomprehensible a construction as the concept of lying is to the Houyhnhnms in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.  This is the accent-cum-dialect that was spoken by all normal people on American network and independent television in the 1970s and 1980s—spoken, to be sure, by figures who seemed to hail from some American quasi-analogue of the Establishment; in other words, by the likes of such quasi-authority figures as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, and Diane Sawyer, but also by scads of people hailing from—or at least playing people hailing from—far humbler stations (the financially harried parents on Eight is Enough, the various detectives of various races and ethnicities on Barney Miller, and virtually the entire cast of Happy Days and its endless spinoffs) and a few who seemed to be representative of a certain down-and-out-ness bordering on outright destitution (e.g,, Bonnie Franklin’s character on One Day at a Time, or the long-suffering public housing residents on Good Times).  To be sure, too, there were lots of people on television who spoke in non-standard dialects and accents, but like their linguistic counterparts on British television, they were all somehow a bit off, a bit morally or intellectually suspect.  Archie and Edith Bunker spoke with an incredibly broad Brooklyn (or perhaps Bronx) accent, but this was because they were racist urban bumpkins, not because they were poor: their equally poor but politically enlightened daughter Gloria spoke like a normal American.  Complementarily, while the Bunker family’s black West-Coast counterparts Sanford and Son were both poor enough to be obliged to reside in a junkyard, only the father, the semi-professional huckster Fred, spoke a full-on black patois complete with “s”-terminating non-third person verbs, superfluous “done”s, and the like; the son, Lamont, was content to berate (and deprecate) his old man’s hucksterism in standard American English.  This is not to say that he, Lamont Sanford, spoke English in exactly the same manner as Gloria Bunker who in turn spoke English in exactly the same manner as Walter Cronkite or that Walter Cronkite spoke English in exactly the same manner as Dan Rather, or even that I thought they did at the time, but merely that the differences were so slight that one seldom gave any sustained thought to them.  To take just a pair out of this catalogue, Cronkite and Rather: when Rather took over from Cronkite as the anchor of the CBS Evening News, the only difference between the two men that one paid any attention to was their difference in chronological age.  One then ceaselessly asked oneself, or ceaselessly heard one’s elders asking one another, whether this young whippersnapper of a quadradgenarian had sufficient gravitas (or some equivalent term, as gravitas didn’t enter the common lexicon until the 2000 presidential election) to fill the shoes of Uncle Walty.  Throughout the handover and its penumbra one was blissfully unaware, as they say, of the respective linguistic back-stories of the two gentlemen.  Only later on, perhaps during the 25th-anniversary commemoration of the (John) Kennedy assassination, when vintage news footage showed the trentigenarian Rather reporting from Dallas, did one both learn that Rather was a native of the state of Texas and come to assume (rightly, as I learned or learnt only minutes ago) that Cronkite hailed from somewhere in the Midwest, and subsequently one did indeed notice subtle differences between the two men’s idiolects.  But even then one never took Rather for some sort of “Yeehaw”-yodeling Slim Pickens manquè, or Cronkite for a “Durn-tootin’”-snapping William H. Macy clone (here I have to stretch into slightly anachronistic territory for a comparandum, as there were no buffo Midwesterners in the movies or on TV during my boyhood), as the geographically distinctive phonemes in their idiolects were crushingly outnumbered by those of General American provenance.  Above all one must observe of the linguistic landscape of ’70s and ’80s American television that it was dominated by a uniformly high grammatical standard, meaning that the differences that obtained between its various tribes and subcultures of Normalia were almost exclusively phonological and lexical in character, such that, for example, provided his part had been purged of its tiresome burden of period subcultural slang (“Dynomite” etc.) beforehand, Walter Cronkite could have ably stood in for Jimmy Walker as J.J. on Good Times without stammering, smirking, or blushing.  Even the most linguistically outré catch phrase of the period—Gary Coleman’s “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” was only very slightly and technically deserving of impeachment by the grammarian; for the only element preventing it from being grammatically interchangeable with Standard American’s “What are you talking about, Willis?” was the absence of any approximation of “are,” and even that might have been not utterly implausibly explained away as a casualty of phonological elision.
So, anyway, the years flew or crept by; from junior high school (i.e., the mid 1980s) onwards I watched less and less television and saw fewer and fewer movies; I moved to Sarasota, just two counties away, for college, where my television-viewing reached its twentieth-century nadir, as I had not taken along a TV set thither, and where virtually every gownsperson and townsperson I met spoke standard American English, just like back at home.  It was only upon moving five states (or 37 counties) away, to Baltimore, for graduate school in 1994, that for the first time in my natural I began semi-regularly encountering--in the flesh and viva voce--native United Statesians who in their own characters (i.e., while to all appearances not impersonating yokels or swindlers) did not speak standard American English, and I gots to tell you, it really floored me.  “What is the deal,” I gobsmackedly apostrophized myself, “with all these people who cannot seem to get the hang of irregular past participles, who say ‘That’s what I would have [or, rather, woulda] did?’; who cannot seem to grasp that English, unlike French, is not a language in which the pronunciation of terminal “s”-es can be omitted? [The name of the university is Johns Hopkins, not John Hopkin; for fudge’s sake, you were born here, shouldn’t you know better?] What, for the ever-motherloving love of fudge, is the matter with these weirdoes?”  At about the same time I started watching television a bit more—for about a twenty-month span from late 1995 through early 1997 I even, for the first and so-far last time, had a personal cable subscription—and going to the movies a bit more often, almost always in the capacity of a Nick Caraway-esque tagger-along on excursions organized by others (who naturally also chose the movie to be seen), a capacity I assumed by way of exerting a last-ditch effort to be sportingly accommodating to the bearers of the ever-degenerating Weltgeist.  Anyway (and speaking of degeneration), as a consequence of once again becoming a semi-regular television and movie viewer, I enjoyed the decidedly dubious privilege of spectating on the crowding out and eventual obliteration, on both the small and big screens, of the Standard American English-speaking normals, by a super-passel of mealy-mouthed, potty-mouthed, grammarless clowns, thugs, and louts.  The clowns, thugs, and louts (who, TBT, were almost always clowns-cum-thugs-cum-louts, by apparent way of canvassing the full Re-NAI-ssance bit of objectionability) came in two stripes or flavors: the Italian-American mobster and another hyphenated compound that I will not venture to spell out even in heavily asterisked form for fear of legal repercussions.  The Italian-American mobster was, to be sure, not a new figure in American television-cum-cinema, as he dated at least as far back as to such early talkies as Little Caesar and the original Scarface, and ever since the appearance of The Godfather in 1972 he had enjoyed a certain quasi-regal prestige: in having been played by America’s closest analogue to Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, the American mafia boss became a sort of Lear-esque role (or rather, role class, as there would only ever be one Don Coglione [sic]), a part that every male actor aspired to play before his retirement.  But beginning with Goodfellas (1990), the mobster—now meaning by default not a boss or his immediate progeny but some mere churl in the mafia hierarchy: a petty hit-man or numbers game down-shaker—was hypostasized into a norm or even an ideal, and not merely for actors but for virtually every single non Judy Garland-worshipping American male in virtually every single trade, profession, and walk of life.  And with the massification of the mobster came a regrettable and by no means logically watertight stultification of his linguistic resources.  (I say that this stultification was by no means logically watertight inasmuch as one might not unreasonably have supposed that among the prerequisites for the acceptance of the mobster as a norm in so-called Middle America would have figured a refinement or smarting-up of his English.)  To be sure, he swore with an aggressive profuseness that effectively mothballed the poor (and in hindsight almost quaintly wholesome) sailor as the standard-bearer of verbal obscenity and profanity, but at bottom the blue lexicon was but a fig-leaf for his abject inarticulateness: his almost literally infantile vocabulary, his hyper-mealy mouthed pronunciation, his sub-Tarzanian grammar.  To be sure, Brando’s Godfather had held forth in an English that could charitably have been described as broken, but that was because English was not his native tongue; the Anglophonic diction of his American-born sons (well, at any rate the clever one played by Al Pacino) put to shame that of WASP senators and debutantes.  The movie mobsters of the ’90s did not have the Godfather’s excuse: they were all native United-Statesians and yet they talked like…well, how is one to describe it?…like a Chico Marx-accented Elmer Fudd on a demijohn of codeine.  “Wadyou wan I should do, you fookin muddafookin douchebag?  You wan I should act like a fookin clown? You wan I should put onna fookin red nose and fookin shit myself like a fookin clown?  Like I ain done shit myself enough like a muddafookin clown already cos a muddfookin douchebags like you.”  Actually, now that I have essayed this rather creditable (if I do say so myself, as they say) pastiche of the ’90s mobster, I am reminded of yet another comparandum thereunto; namely, that early 1980s software application—a sort of quarter-arsed essay at a Turing machine--known as Eliza, which spat out endlessly iterative boilerplate psychobabble in response to the user’s typed-in queries and confessions.  But anyway, the nadir or negative apotheosis of the utterly inarticulate mobster churl was of course reached in the very late 1990s with the premiere of The Sopranos, a television program in which a borderline aphasiac-cum-clinical moron, a man who in so (but rightly)-called real life would not have made the first cut in a position-search for a McDonalds fry-daddy steward, was foisted forth as a venerable paterfamilias and sovereign of a crime syndicate of Fortune 500-esque size, stature, and influence.  The show’s showpiece tableaux, as I doubtless have no need to remind the reader, who has doubtless burned through the PVC layer of every disc in his Sopranos boxed set by now, were its purportedly ineluctably aphrodisiacal (but in reality, at least that of the present writer, eminently detumescing) tête-à-têtes between the eponym and his barely more articulate lady psychoanalyst, e.g.:  “LP: Mistah Soprano, whatcha fooking doing?  TS: What’s it look I’m fookin’ doin’? I’m wipin’ my fookin’ ass.  TS: Mistah Soprano, that is not your fooking ass.  That’s a fooking hole in the flawah of this heeahh fooking office.  TS: If you fookin’ say so.  LP: Can we get back to what we was twawking about befwahah?  TS: What, bout how I wanna fook my muddah?  You wan I should fookin tell you I wanna fook my fookin muddah, you fookin hoowah?”  It was almost enough to make one dash forthwith to the school supply aisle of one’s neighbo(u)rhood (or district’s) drug store or chemist’s (i.e. (not e.g.), CVS or Boots) to buy a compass of the circle-tracing sort, wherewith—specifically via the pointy-ended non-pencil accepting of its two legs—to administer to oneself a  Johnny-on-the-spot  double tympanectomy.  And yet supposed sophistiqués of every conceivable espèce or stripe were practically falling over themselves, as they say, or voiding in torrents out of every sub-cinctural orifice (as they do not but should say) about what a brilliant, for-all-time-essence-of-the-human-condition capturing program The Sopranos was.  “Take,” they were constantly adjuring me, in between bouts of kissing their own pursed fingertips, “Don Giovanni, raise it to the power of Amleto and multiply that by La Divina Commedia.  Then and only then will you begin to have the merest ghost of an idea(r)of the unsurpassable excellencia and nobilita of The Sopranos.”  And the subsequent damage to the mainstream, how do you say?, Fernsehmundart, i.e., the way people in general talk on (or in) television dramas, has been incalculable.  Even on (or in) a show like Mad Men, a show purporting to depict a legally legitimate milieu of impeccable early late-twentieth century linguistic finesse, the actors habitually grunt and shout staccato volleys of monosyllabic interjections at each other in lieu of conversing in full-fledged clauses.
But I digress prematurely from my personal note.  For there is still a second panel of the diptych of Robertsonian intramillennial meta-linguistic disillusionment to be disclosed the panel depicting my recentish (i.e., 12-to-14 years distant) negative epiphany vis-à-vis the televisual-cum-cinematic corpus originating from the right or east side of the Pond.
“I beg your pardon, but before you go on to that second panel, isn’t there a rather formidably sized sub-panel of the first panel to be disclosed?”
“To what ever are you referring, MDF?”
“I am referring to a sub-panel depicting a certain ‘hyphenated compound that [you would] not venture to spell out even in heavily asterisked form for fear of legal repercussions.’”
“Oh, must I—or, rather, must it (i.e., the panel be disclosed)?”
“I’m afraid you, or, rather it, very much must.”
“Oh, very well.  But how am I to disclose it without fear of incurring the aforementioned legal repercussions?  [Thirty seconds of tabletop finger-thrumming]  Ah, I think I’ve got it.  At the very end of the early 1980s, just before the onset of my tele-kino-visual latency period, I was compelled by my elders to watch a few episodes of an antient (early ’50s) television situation comedy series whose title corresponded to the Christian names of its two nominal central characters yoked together by the folksy conjunction ‘’n’’.  In those days this series served in the U.S. an institutionalized didactic end almost exactly consubstantial with that served during those very same days by the film Jud Süß in both the Federal and Democratic Republics of Germany: each was shown to young people by way of reminding or informing them about the way a certain so-called marginalized group had been both popularly and officially represented under the auspices of an earlier and less desirable political dispensation.  These representations were roundly laid into, inveighed against, by the standard-bearers of the then-current (very late early 1980s) political dispensation on the grounds that they (the representations) were manifestly unfair and unjust because manifestly inaccurate and untrue.  In no place or at any time, the standard-bearers of the then-current political order maintained, had the actual empirical members of the represented group spoken or acted in any way even remotely resembling the way in which they were represented as speaking and behaving in the representation, which had been jealously fabricated out of whole cloth by the standard-bearers of the earlier and less desirable political dispensation as a means of safeguarding their own political prerogatives, as a means of forestalling the impartment of the smallest piece of the political pie to the (mis)represented group.  Thank goodness, the standard-bearers of the then-current political order crowed (as in Drinky not as in Jim), that we were now living in an era in which nobody of any power or influence would ever stoop to such low hoodwinkery.  (And of course, as we have seen, they were actually largely right about the way things looked onscreen at the time.)  Now in the case of Jud Süß, the misrepresented group was or were the Jews, and in the case of this ’50s show it was or were the plural of the hyphenated compound I mentioned earlier.
“Well, if the show is the show I think it is, then based on what I know about that show the only possible hyphenated compound that will fit is…”
(The present writer, shivering, chattering, and voiding profusely out of his rearmore sub-cinctural orifice):  ….Y-y-y-yess?
“Yes: taxi-drivers, the drivers of cabs or taxis.  Well, am I right or am I right?”
(The present writer, casting his eyes towards every point of the compass in wanton evasiveness): “Oh, you’re right all right.  Taxi drivers.  C’est ça.  C’est le billet, sans doute.  Well, so as I was about to say, having grown up believing that no empirically extant taxi-driver had ever spoken in a manner half as ungrammatical, as inarticulate, as malapropism-ridden, as the taxi-drivers on the aforementioned 50s situation comedy had done, I was not a little shocked and quite a lot more than a little dismayed to find an appallingly large proportion of taxi-drivers I met or saw on screen from the mid 1990s onwards speaking a version of English that made the taxi-drivers on that 50s show sound like Tully Cicero as played by Sir John Gielgud.”
“I see.  But how does the most famous taxi-driver in cinematic history fit into this metalinguistic schema, given that his portrayer, Mr. DeNiro, was one of the chief trailblazing figures in the mobsterization of American English that you likewise deplore?”
[Aside to more insightful and less pedantic DGR:] I really should have just spelled out the whole hyphenated compound in plain Roman letters from the so-called get-go shouldn’t I have done?  [Aloud to dim-witted and pedantic DGR:]  Beats me. ‘Why don’t you go play in traffic, kid?’ as the linguistically irreproachable standup comedians of the very late early 1980s used to say.”
“Aye-aye, sir!” [vrOOOM.  VRooom.  Splat.]
Anyway, to move ever so belatedly on to my disillusionment with the televisual and cinematic Brits:  this negative epiphany was rather more sudden and slightly later in coming than the slow, McArthur(’s)-Parkesque meltdown of my enamorment with the American Fernseh(undkino)mundart, for my mid-90s reacquaintance with the Fehrnsehundkinomundartsgeist happened not to include very many U.K.-originating movies or program(me)s.  Of right-of-the-Pond originating movies, I can only remember Trainspotting, which of course was exclusively about Scotspeople, whose linguistic eccentricity I then gave carte blanche to (since then, as we shall see, I have been compelled to impose on this eccentricity a credit limit not entirely unanalogous to certain measures entailed by the regularization of currency exchange rates in the Eurozone) and those two about firemen or factory workers turned strippers, both of which I took in as pure fantasy-saturated novelty pictures; I would as soon have regarded Toy Story and Cars as slices of everyday life in 90s America as those two (whose titles I will not deign to name) as slices of everyday life in 90s Britain.  Most of the most celebrated British movies of the 1990s I never saw and have (almost certainly thankfully) yet to see.  “Oh, come on: you must have seen Guy Ritchie’s masterful (sic) Tarantino knock-off—erm, homageTwo Shotguns and the Whole Shebang.”  No, I mustn’t have done.  Indeed, I haven’t seen a single frame of the stinking thing apart from the shrapnel-bits of it that made it into the television trailers, in which, from what I remember, the eponymous shotguns did all, or at least almost all, of the talking.  “Well, what about Four Weddings and a Funeral, the all-time highest grossing non-Hollywood (and hence perforce most popular British) film of all time?”  No, although I admit that during the aforementioned cable-subscribing personal microepoch I could not avoid overhearing a few minutes of Simon Callow’s Brian Blessed impersonation from 4W&1F—but what could be more more mainline posh, more indisputably U, than the English of Simon Callow and Brian Blessed?  (And complementarily, what could be more respectably middle-of-the-road Yankish than Simon Callow’s  impeccable assumed American accent in the role of Emmanuel Schikaneder in Milos Forman’s early mid-1980s Amadeus, a very late flower of the old dialect-blind dispensation, a representation of eighteenth-century Vienna in which all the Austrian characters spoke Standard American English?) And on the televisual side proper, the only British shows of that period that stick with me are the Comedy Central-mediated offerings Absolutely Fabulous and Whose Line Is It Anyway, both of which now look in hindsight like last-ditch attempts by the British Board of Tourism, or the U.K. Embassy, or for all I know, the MI5—by whichever right-of-Pondial governmental agency or quango was responsible for keeping up the British image abroad—to fool us Yanks into believing that all was still right with the British Spracheslandschaft, that the so-called Received Pronunciation was still very much the preferred accent of not only the best sorts of people in the U.K. but even the best part of the worst sorts.  Whose Line was, after all, presided over by the bald and perennially pinstripe suit-and-power tied former barrister Clive Anderson, a man who seemed to have modeled his entire modus presentendi on the hyper-low-key, impeccably U, superficially so unassuming it hurt, style of the phoney BBC interviewers in Monty Python sketches.  And as for the panelists—well, half of them were American, and all of them were invariably called upon to erect an adamantine wall of the broadest, most surreal high jinks through whose infinitesimally think chinks the faintest whiff of a soupcon of how they actually comported themselves in so-called everyday life never escaped.  Supposing that, say, Paul Merton discharged a volley of glottal stops and “f” for “th” substitutions in the course of an improvisation: there was no reason, was there?, to infer therefrom that the so (and rightly)-called real-life Paul Merton did not know his “cackle” from his “cattle,” or how to make it clear whether he had cogitated (i.e., thought) about something or taken up arms against (i.e., fought) it?  And as for AbFab, well the hindsight-furnished jaw dropper in its case is that in the light of their linguistic comportment its two principals actually managed to cut muster (and pass mustard) as incarnations of the nadir of tackiness.  To be sure, Joanna Lumley’s and Dawn French’s characters dressed like whores, drank and swore like sailors (albeit not quite like 90s American movie mobsters), and behaved in general like the scullery maids of fishwives, but minus the blue lexicon they spoke exactly like duchesses (I mean, of course, the elderly duchesses of their own time, not certain trentegenarian duchesses of today).  And the Robertsonian upshot of their Doublemintworthy unimpeachable linguistic poshness was that I rounded out the millennium believing—nay, perhaps even fell asleep in the wee hours of January 1, 2001 [for I recall that at 11:59 EST on December 31, 2000 I was wide awake {no, not blind drunk} and preoccupied with watching the old ball drop] consoling myself with the thought—that at least back (or, rather, over, as I had never been there) in Blighty, they still ordered things better linguistically, that at least in the U.K. a man or woman could still speak ten consecutive fully intelligible and grammatically unimpeachable words of English without being pelted with tomatoes or something much worse.  Boy (I pray I may avail myself of this innocent interjection without offending the taxi-drivers [for note that I am not employing the word in a vocative sense]), was I in for a so (but rightly)-called rude awakening!
The rude awakening came courtesy of (to the extent that one can speak of courtesy chez anything rude) a British and specifically English movie directed, and, I assume, written, by Michael Winterbottom, a movie entitled Wonderland, which was released to the cinemas in 1999 (hence most likely filmed in 1998), but first spectated on by me chez moi, on DVD, in 2003.  The movie evidently was intended to be a sort of club sandwich of life-slices culled from the quotidiana of a handful of young (i.e., perhaps, 20-to-25-year-old) Londoners whom one evidently was expected to regard sympathetically—or perhaps more than to regard sympathetically, to regard rather and even as a kind of norm, as a pattern for how to live and behave in today’s (or, rather--please excuse my momentary oblivion of the intervening decade-and-a-half—that day’s) unremittingly fast-paced and competitive but at the same time undeniably spiritually plenifecund metropolitan Anglosphere.  What I mean in saying that these young Londoners were to be regarded as a norm is that throughout Wonderland every single one of them is suffered to go about his or her Alltag without committing any of the atrocities that in that day’s (as also, as near as I can tell, in today’s) semiotics of morals automatically occasioned a forfeiture of the viewer’s good opinion.  None of them slagged off any racial or lifestylistic minorities or put a recyclable item in an ordinary dustbin or smoked a cigarette within nose-shot of anyone under the age of seventeen.  And yet all of them were every bit as annoying and offensive as the most brutishly sub-raffish of the 90s American movie and TV mobsters.  Technically speaking their collective accent-cum-dialect could only have been cockney, but its resemblance to the cockney accent-cum-dialect I had grown up with, the televisual-cum-cinematic cockney of the 1970s and ’80s, was superficial and slight on every conceivable so-called level.  My cockney accent-cum-dialect, the cockney accent-cum-dialect of Eric Idle’s Python characters, and of Dax from Doctor Who, although it made use of heterodox phonemes and vocabulary and, to a lesser extent, grammar, was rarely either inarticulate or incomprehensible; for there always remained enough of a core or skeleton of standard English to impart a more or less complete and transparent sense of the speaker’s nub or gist.  In Wonderland’s vocal soundtrack, on the other hand, the glottal stops, the non meaning-bearing interjections, the auxiliary verb-less irregular past participles, flowed so thick, fast, and full, that one often could not make head or tail of what the characters were talking about.  It was not that they were speaking another language, such that the lack of comprehension could be mended through the addition of subtitles, but that they were speaking our language—theirs and
mine—so ineptly that one doubted that they understood one another much better than one understood them oneself.  What was more, their entire attitude to the language was different from that of the traditional screen cockney.  The traditional screen cockney seemed to view language in an active and meta-instrumental light.  As I mentioned before, the people who spoke this dialect in the old days always seemed to be trying either to sell their interlocutor something, or to trick him into doing something; and their linguistic comportment was accordingly imbued with both the agility and the obsequiousness of the born salesman or con artist, whence the instrumental character of their linguistic habitus.  These people may not have been (and indeed never were) masters of the English language in the most comprehensive sense, but it was patently evident that they cared a great deal about what they were saying and how it came across, because it was simultaneously patently obvious that they were interested in getting something done by saying it.  But the instrumentality-abetting qualities were combined with an additional something that imparted the just-mentioned meta-ness to the instrumentalism, a sort of unconcealable jaunty cheekiness bordering on Schadenfreude, an attitude that suggested they were all the while providing a running commentary on their own shtick to some invisible third party.  “Get a load of this toffee-nosed geezer,” the televisual or cinematic cockney always seemed to be saying to the aforementioned ITP: “he finks he’s got me sussed as a thick-as-frozen Marmite Prole, but I’m on to him like a J-cloth on a salad cream stain.  I’m fittin’ ter fleece him like Jason times the Argonauts, to nick the very uncle from off his roberta.”  Or words to that effect.  The cockneys in Wonderland in infinitely demoralizing contrast, had a linguistic habitus of immanent passivism.  They seemed to be speaking the way they did because they couldn’t be bothered, or rather bovvered, or rather still, arsed, to speak any other way, and they seemed to be speaking as inarticulately as possible because their utterances had no apparent purpose; and in the absence of any purpose there was no imaginary third party to be addressed, hence no meta-level to their discourse.  The world, they seemed to believe, had already accepted them as they were; hence there was no need to coax or cajole or wheedle it into doing anything for them.  If the comportment of an old-school cockney could be likened to that of a two-piece-suited salesman gamely winking at a colleague as he sweetens his morning coffee ration with a bit of hooch from a flask secreted up his sleeve during a five-minute break in a ten-hour pitching marathon, the new-school Wonderland cockney was like an office temp who upon showing up to work unshowered, unshaved, tieless, and with one shirt tail untucked, immediately puts his head down on his desk and goes to sleep.  For the usufruct of the DVD of Wonderland I had paid comparatively big money--$3.75, as I recall (this was at least a month or two before the days of N*****x, meaning before the day on which I first heard of that company-stroke-service), such that for every unwatched minute of the movie I would only barely figuratively be tossing into the dustbin or furnace nearly four-fifths of a nickel (i.e., 375 cents divided by the club sandwich of life-slices genre-mandated duration of 100 minutes).  Even so, I could not manage to force myself to spectate on it (the DVD) past circa the fifty-minute mark.  The thought that creatures of such unregenerate, unapologetic linguistic slovenliness were supposed to matter in any sense by anyone, and specifically by a man (Winterbottom) who had managed to get other people to give him hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of pounds for the purpose of dramaturgically asserting that they mattered, that “attention must be paid” to them, was, in Dr. Johnson’s words apropos of his reading through of the final scene of Othello for the preparation of his edition of Shakespeare, “not to be endured.”  And so I switched it (the same accursed DVD) off at counter-reading 49:49 or thereabouts.
1.    At right about the same time—meaning not 49 minutes and 49 seconds into my viewing of Wonderland, but in the late-early (n)oughties—radio networks and stations all over the world began broadcasting live, in earnest, and in transistor-set FM quality-sound (as against the previous telephone earpiece AM-quality sound) over the interweb, and working as I did 8/5 at a computer with an interweb connection, I could at last unplug and take home from the office my AM-FM transistor set, which I had long been keen to do not only on account of its perennially snowy reception but also because I had grown sick of the ubiquity of the voices of linguistically inept taxi-drivers and rednecks in the daytime schedule of the Baltimore NPR news-talk affiliate (as a rule I don’t listen to music at work).  Almost immediately and inevitably, in my choice of a regular alltägliches station, I gravitated to the BBC’s London station.  For as a youngster—i.e., during the pre-1990 period already elegiacally dwelt upon so ad nauseam—I had been an enthusiastic listener to the BBC World Service, but only as a pis aller, because it was the only U.K.-originating regular radio broadcast straightforwardly listenable to in the U.S; if I had had my Anglophile druthers, I would certainly have listened to local English radio back then (corollarily, if I had had my Soviet-gourmandizing druthers, I would certainly have listened to the local Muskovite-orientated propaganda on KKGB Moscow in preference to the American-orientated propaganda dished up on or by Radio Moscow).  That notwithstanding, there is something it behooves me to say here about the World Service, eo ipso, viz. that it afforded a perfectly seamless fit with the picture of the linguistic landscape that I was contemporaneously deriving from Briton-involving television broadcasts, meaning that the on-air roster of the World Service, its passel of news readers, DJs, presenters, game show panelists, etc. seemed collectively to span the same linguistic gamut as that spanned by its cinematic-cum-televisual counterpart—from toffish standard British English to old-school cockney, with the non-toffish standard British English Speakers solidly outnumbering the toffs and the cockneys.  So, just as the cinematic-cum-televisual British Sprachslandschaft was dominated by the likes of John Cleese and Tom Baker, yet found room for the occasional John Gielgud and Marty Feldman, so the radio (radial? wirelessial?) British Sprachslandschaft was dominated by the likes of Mel Oxley and Nicholas Parsons, yet found room for the likes of that extremely posh woman who occasionally read the news (and whose name, if I ever knew it, now escapes me) and John Peel.  But on or back to BBC London, as the BBC’s London station was fittingly called: in format this station turned out to be if not exactly then at least broadly what I had hoped it would be: viz, the station to which Londinians were expected (at least by the BBC) to turn for their locally orientated news, traffic reports, and weather forecasts, for interviews with local politicians and other local public figures about so-called hot-button local issues, &c.—in short, a station intended to give the average Londoner a running sense of the Statdtgeist of the metropolis in which he or she resided.  But in place of the mild-mannered, soft-spoken, impeccably articulate patter of the Walter Cronkite and Dick Cavett analogues I had expected to find hosting (or “presenting,” to use the British idiom) these local public-affairs orientated shows and segments, I was aurally assailed virtually round the daytime clock by the brazenly aphasiac patois of a succession of yobs and yobbesses straight off the fishmonger’s cart from Wonderland.  Cold death had taken its first citadel”—or, rather, something like its fifth or sixth.  (I have treated of some of the other citadel-capturings elsewhere in these pages.)  Anyway, I hope the reader is getting some sense of the peculiar character of my disillusionment in this case.  The dramatis personae of Wonderland were (or had been), after all, presented as callow, not-yet-full(ly) fledged, and still wet behind the ears (even if the youngest of them by all historically extrapolable rights should have been as dry-templed, hard-bitten, and sore-winged as a septuagenarian vulture [our (i.e., the Occident’s) micro-era’s deferral of entry into (and rightly)-called rat-race of adulthood to an ever-later chronological age-mark in perverse defiance of economic realities {which more than handily trump the endlessly vaunted and fundamentally trivial increase in the average life expectancy} is the subject for a separate essay]).  One (meaning an Anglophile of a certain age, e.g., I) could therefore plausibly (albeit ultimately inaccurately) chalk up one’s appallment by that dramatis personae’s speech patte(r)ns to one’s relative senescence, and in this upchalking was inextricably implicit the ineluctably consolatory thought that by the time these callow &c. younglings had grown into matoor adults (the implied pronunciation is meant to be suggestive of that of an American school career guidance counsellor), they would have begun speaking like the matoor British adults I had grown up listening to and spectating on—viz. on the whole like John Cleese and at the worst like John Peel.  My familiarization with the offerings of BBC London robbed me of this consolatory thought with a downright magpie-worthy brazenness.  You see, the on-air staff at BBC London were hardly callow or wet-behind-the ears, autc.; the youngest of them was perhaps 35 years of age, and their median age seemed to be about 50.  So there they were, occupying situations in life that were if not exactly distinguished then certainly worthy of matoor adults, and yet as linguistically impoverished as the youngest and most abjectly untutored street urchin.  It made no absolutely no b****y sense.  How, I despondingly asked myself, were they getting away with it?  Thankfully (or thankably), there was one BBC London presenter who at the grammatical and syntactical levels consistently spoke in a manner that would have passed the muster of the old-school BBC standard, and at the lexical and phonological levels kept his cockneyisms safely below the old-school BBC threshold of maximum number of parts-per-billion (or, rather, thousand-million).  This was Danny Baker, who occupied the 3-5 p.m. pre-drive slot (i.e., for me, five time zones behind, the 10 a.m.-12 noon elevenses slot) and who cushioned the linguistic trauma even further by employing as his sidekicks a pair of Americans, Amy Lamé and Baylen Leonard.  And than this pair no starker illustration of the continuing (and laudable) comparative linguistic homogeneity of the United States could be asked for: Lamé hailed from the so-called Jersey Shore, Leonard from some jerkwater burglet on the Tennessee-Virginia border, yet to the uninitiated (e.g., the present writer before he learned of their origins), they both sounded simply like Americans who had been living rather a long time in London.  But alas: eventually, in August 2012, Baker got the sack, and I was forced to quest for bearable spoken British English elsewhere.  “And naturally, being a so-called classical music buff, you made a beeline for BBC Radio 3.”  Like Sarn Hill I did!  For one thing, as mentioned earlier, I didn’t care to listen to music at work, and for another, from my occasional forays into its early late night schedule (i.e., my early-late afternoon schedule) I knew that despite its official function as flogger of the most hoity-toity, highfalutin, tight-assed category of music in the marketers’ taxonomy (but also, it should be mentioned to R3’s discredit, of jazz and so-called world music), Radio 3 was a veritable aural rogues’ gallery of ridiculous and incomprehensible accents-cum-dialects.  What more linguistically risible a figure, after all, could one imagine than Ian McMillan, a self (and officially) styled “people’s poet,” presenter (and host in the non-broadcast specific pan-Anglophone sense) of R3’s weekly literary salon The Verb, and possessor of a Sheffield accent that in point of industrial-strength steel-toed thickness puts to shame (or rather pride) that of Jon Shuttleworth, a fictional Sheffielder—the chief eponym and central character of Radio 4’s sitcom The Shuttleworths—whose hyperprovincial linguistic habitus is in one way or another accountable for 90 percent of the laughs intended to be elicited by that program (The Shuttleworths not The Verb).  When Mr. Shuttleworth asks his wife Mary if she would “mind roosling oos oop a coop of soup, loov” one is expected to explode into thigh-slapping hysterics, but when Mr. McMillan utters a comparably ludicrously “oo”-packed sentence (as he does only slightly less often than he exhales) one is expected to maintain stiff-upper-lipped, po-faced silence, because The Verb is after all supposed to be a venue for serious, po-faced authentically literary expression.  Then there is Philip Dodd, Brecht-coiffed sexagenarian host of R3’s flagship cultural affairs program Free Thinking, formerly [and, to my mind, betterly] titled Night Waves. In its official format, Free Thinking is highbrow enough to make Fresh Air sound like The Howard Stern Show: a typical installment might consist of a review of a new production of Berndt Alois Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten followed by a roundtable discussion of Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees followed by an interview with Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie followed (finally) by an oral essay on the comparative contemporary attitudes to the minor Jacobean dramatists in the Indian and Pakistani sectors of Punjab.  One might expect—or at least might have expected, 25 or 30 years ago—that linguistically speaking, at least on the presenting end, such a program would be a so-called last bastion of if not old-school plumminess then at least of middle-of- the-road received pronunciation.  And to be sure, Mr. Dodd’s biography seems to be that of a man eminently qualified to serve as such a bastion down-holder: an English professor by training, he was once a colleague of Philip Larkin’s ultra-prim girlfriend Monica Jones at the University of Leicester.  But the dude actually talks like some freakish hybrid of Eliza Doolittle and a lowly, pig-swiving Yorkshire farmhand straight out of the supernumerary cast of All Creatures Great and Small.  Mr. Dodd amazingly seems never to have learned (or learnt) the proper way to pronounce the name of the letter denoted by the character H, and so in his mouth H. G. Wells becomes Haitch G. Wells, H. L. Mencken Haitch L. Mencken, H. R. Puffenstuff Haitch R. Puffenstuff, etc.  Nor, even more amazingly—and indeed horrifyingly—seems he to have been taught that sit—like walk, run, talk, eat, &c.—can be used as an intransitive verb, and so his interlocutors are always “sat” next to or opposite him in the studio.  I cannot forbear cringing on the poor guest’s behalf when I hear Phil employing this hyperprovincial barbarism (or hyperbarbaric provincialism), beside which the hypernotorious innit comes across as an utterly harmless and ever-so-slightly plebian variant of dontcherknow.  Seriously, does the man not realize how incredibly rude an attribution of being “sat” is, does he not have an inkling of the abjectly undignified position into which it places the supposed “satter”?  Indeed, I can’t think of any more bumptious or less flattering way of verbally representing one’s partner in a tête-à-tête’s incumbency than by saying “he (or she) is sat opposite (or next to) me,” apart perhaps from “he (or she) done just plopped down across from (or next to) me on to his (or her) lilywhite (or c**l black) cornhole jowls.”  For me, this use of “sat” in place of “sitting” constitutes the ninth circle of the present-day corruption of colloquial British English.  While I do not doubt that it originated decades or centuries ago as a genuinely unreflective speech practice of a once empirically extant collectivity of native English speakers, I cannot but assume that that collectivity was a sort of linguistic analogue of (or to) one of those obscure tribes of gorilla-gourmandizing deep jungle-dwellers to whom we are said to owe so many of today’s most virulent outbreaks and epidemics of communicable disease, for as recently as five years ago one quasi-literally never heard it—i.e. “sat” for “sitting”--quasi-literally anywhere.  Apparently that recently not even the grubbiest, least linguistically fastidious rag-and-bone man would deign to sink his rag-and-bone man’s ten-foot pole deep enough into the sewer to touch it.  But now even the presenter of Radio 3’s flagship cultural affairs program lingers over the effluent-logged vocable as if it were a mouthful of Opimian vintage.  To those more attuned to the American news and public affairs media than to their British counterparts I am hard pressed to adduce a phenomenon of comparable rebarbativeness now that Bill Buckley is dead and Dick Cavett retired; but if they were to picture to themselves Terry Gross or Charlie Rose remarking during a discussion of some national legislative matter that “Senator X done brung a bill up” they might almost get a soupcon of how unsurpassably horribly Mr. Dodd’s employment of “sat” for “sitting” sits upon the ears.
So anyway: as Radio 3 afforded me no refuge from the partially aphasiac mobility, I fled further down the dial (not that I know if the numerical up-tick corresponds to any acceleration of Herzial amplitude for listeners to the domestic analog services) to Radio 4, the BBCs’ highbrow spoken-word network, where I have taken my diurnal aural nutriment ever since, albeit at best grudgingly; for Radio 4 is at best a pis aller for a man of my meta-linguistic hankerings.  To be sure, I cannot in good faith complain about the linguistic comportment of any of the presenters: for the most part they speak in a low-key so-called Estuary accent, a sort of fusion of old-school RP consonants with Cockney-inflected vowels (it has quite justly been said, by the latish Jacques Barzun or somebody quoted by him, that in speaking English one can permit oneself all sorts of liberties with the vowels and remain consistently intelligible so long as one gets the consonants right), with a tolerably low incidence of tolerably minor solecisms and barbarisms (i.e., the likes of “comprised of” and “bacteria” for “bacterium” once every few hours) and a virtual absence of grammatical transgressions (from R4’s regular on-air staff one hears nary an “if I would have been there, I would have done,” let alone ary a “sat” for “sitting”).  But the tolerability of the R4 presenterly Stimmenschaft qua medium is mildly vitiated by the as-yet-unending recurrence of a certain topos, a so-called mantra if you will, in its message: namely, the self-flagellating boilerplate plaint of “Gosh, if only I could just for once extricate myself from the two-sizes-too-small monkey-suit that is this insufferably posh accent and finally talk like a normal person!” with which every R3 presenter seems to feel obliged to punctuate his patter nearly as often as with the Gesundheit-like interjection of “other brands are available” that must be immediately postfixed to every mention of G****e, A***e, S*******y’s, etc., owing to the Beeb’s legal status as a commercially neutral publicly funded corporate entity.   The plaint irritates in the first place because, as I have already stated in other words, the accent in question is really not all that posh; indeed, it is plebbish enough to provoke one to retort with some (albeit not much) exaggeration, “In my day, with an accent like that you’d be lucky to get a gig as a shelf-stocker/ coat-check girl at Woolworth’s, mate/love.”  In the second and more nub-fingering place, the plaint irritates because to the extent that the accent is posh, it expedites rather than impedes the plying of the presenters’ métier of “great communicator.”  Do they, Radio 4’s presenters, really believe that it would be in the best interest of their audience for them to speak, for example, in the typical dialects-cum-accents of their guests, the Geordie-hobbled nuclear physicists, the Jafaican-spewing installation artists, the Glaswegian-inebriated cabinet undersecretaries, who traipse through Broadcasting House in the several-dozens each day?  How, for the love of Bovril, would we standard English-speaking listeners from Sydney to Poughkeepsie be able to make head or tail of the welter of wanton inscrutability if it were not counterpoised by the ciceronic verbal interventions of people who talk more or less just like us(’s) evincing a Lassie owner-like empathetic patience in gently prompting their interlocutors to clarify themselves at every turn: e.g. “Excuse me, Lord Northnumpt, but in speaking of ooze just now were you referring to your fellow Cumbrians or to the substance from which life on earth is alleged to have emerged, or yet again (albeit most improbably) to the river defining the greater part of the Norfolk-Suffolk border?”  Left to our own listenerly devices, what could we possibly make of some young,  Oxbridge-accredited writer, painter, or all-round spokesperson for the most cultivated stratum of Britain’s yoot onansitically holding forth as follows: “Stry af’er uni, ah foun’ meself sat droppin’ a load in a bog in a caff—you know, one o’ them bog-standard caffs on Fulham Broadway—anna fough’a meself, Stroof!, innit toima big up me flimbags, you know, a loi’ problematise the whole pietriaw’l conception of  wo’ i’ means a be, loi’, a wooman innadize mooicooltural soco’iee, naatimean?”
What can possibly be the efficient cause, the final cause, and the collective motivation for such a sea change—although the change would be more aptly likened to the equally swift mid-twentieth century transformation of certain North American rivers into combustible open sewers--in the British Sprachesschaft?  The notion that there has in fact been no such Sprachesschaftsseeänderung, the notion that what I—a Yank who admittedly has derived his idea of how Britons speak principally and indeed almost exclusively from movies, radio, and television—am taking for a change in the collective linguistic habitus of empirical Britons is merely a change in the collective editorial policy of Britain’s broadcasters and movie producers, will not stand up to serious scrutiny.   For the editors and producers of audiovisual media are hardly godlike figures with absolute sway over every square centimeter of the soundtracks of their productions; they may aim to hire only actors and presenters with certain types of accents, but they must choose their actors and presenters from the complete pool of actors and presenters available to work; they may hope to capture nothing but certain types of accents in their candid interviews with ordinary people, their so called vox pops, but the voces in question must after all  be those of actual pops, and when the leading news story concerns a comet visitation, they must seek the expert commentary of actual astrophysicists; likewise, a report on a pending change in the tax law requires a viva voce weigh-in from an actual MP, and a profile of an exhibition of new art would be unsellable without a word from some of the exhibited artists.  Doubtlessly in the old RP-favoring days more Britons spoke in non-RP accents and dialects than the prevailing on-screen and on-air linguistic picture would have led a non-Briton to believe, but equally doubtlessly not all those MPs and astrophysicists and painters who talked just like John Cleese and Felicity Kendall were simply toffing themselves up for the camera or microphone; surely at least some of them were talking in the very same accent they would have used in buying a train ticket or asking their spouse to pass the salad cream.  Consequently, a certain admittedly unspecifiable proportion of the people with silly accents in present-day British television, radio, and cinema must be people who fifty-plus years ago would have spoken RP or indeed did speak it if they were alive back then.  “OK, fine,” my Whiggish U.K.-born adversary concedes, “you win, Yank: the sea change in the linguistic landscape of the British audiovisual media does at least in part participate in, or in more conventional terms, ‘reflect,’ a change in the off-camera and off-microphone linguistic habituses of certain empirical Britons.  But you are mistaken in thinking of all these present-day linguistically distinctive astrophysicists, MPs, painters, et al., as mere socioeconomic clones or carbon copies of their RP-speaking predecessors.  Cos you see, in the past half-century the U.K. has undergone a radical socioeconomic reorganisation.  Believe it or not, not a single one—and I mean not a single, quasi-literally stinking-cum-cotton picking one—of the grandparents, let alone the great-grandparents, of the linguistically distinctive MPs, painters and astrophysicists whose sociolect you so lordly-ly contemn, was afforded the privilege of becoming an astrophysicist, MP, or painter.  You see, here in Britain, from the time of the Anglo-Saxon conquests in the late fifth century through to about 1970, we had in place this wee unbudgeable institution called the class system that kept every British subject bound on pain of death to ply the trade (or non-trade) of his or her father or mother.  Consequently, fifty years ago you would not have heard linguistically distinctive MPs, painters and astrophysicists on radio and television because the parents of today’s linguistically distinct MPs, just like their great-times-60 grandparents during the reign of King Alfred, had been categorically prohibited from becoming MPs, painters, or astrophysicists.  Indeed, at the age of fifteen or thereabouts they had been presented with a stark and ineluctable choice: either continue coal-hauling, rag and bone-trading or pigshit-carting, as you have been doing since the midwife yanked you from the womb, or be made into dog food.  And so until about 1970 the only MPs, painters and astrophysicists one heard on radio and television were the children and indeed great-times-60 grandchildren of astrophysicists, MPs and painters.  Finally, circa 1970, in a landmark or watershed that makes your stinkin’ Brown vs. The Board of Education look like the lifting of a prohibition on Timberlanes at the third-most popular nightclub in Luton, the first scholar of working-class parentage was admitted to Oxford; by circa 1975 there were thousands of youngsters of such parentage on the rolls of Oxford and its sister English Ivy, Cambridge, and when these youngsters finally became old enough to assume positions of power and prestige, in about 1985, one finally began to hear linguistically distinctive MPs, astrophysicists and painters on the BBC, ITV etcetera.  Q.E.-sodding.D.”  Whereupon my Whiggish U.K.-born adversary smiles a close-lipped smile identical to the one he would be smiling if he had just taken a lung-dilating hit from the mouthpiece of a hookah tube connected at the opposite end to his own anal sphincter.  This is indeed an argument that I have heard adduced several times, almost verbatim, and at least as smugly, on Radios 3 and 4 in reply to those all-too-occasional and justly motivated but invariably incoherently framed listeners’ complaints about the chintzily parti-colored linguistic landscape of the Beeb; and while one of the argument’s minor premises—namely, the one about children of working-class parents at Oxford and Cambridge, probably does have a toehold in fact (probably more children of working class parentage were attending the elite British Universities in the 1970s than in, say, the 1930s, although quite a lot of such children had been attending such universities since the 1270s at the latest)—the overall socioeconomic-historical narrative arc it presupposes is pure codswallop.  For this narrative arc is one of a recent--i.e., post-1970--progressive leveling of socioeconomic distinctions in the U.K., of a democratization of the avenues to wealth and power.  It suggests that for the past forty or fifty years there has been in existence-cum-operation some kind of ongoing U.K.-wide occupational swap shop, wherein the pigshit carters, coal miners, and rag-and-bone-traders have been queuing up to swap their pitchforks, pickaxes, and sewer-prodding poles for the palettes, telescope eyepieces, and briefcases of painters, astrophysicists, and MPs.  How could it suggest otherwise?  For after all, the grandchildren of the (supposedly extant) old poshility are by and large still alive and resident in the U.K.; they obviously haven’t been exiled en masse to some overseas gulag.  Such being the case, they can have made way for the formerly underprivileged only by becoming underprivileged in their own (doubtless jolly well-deserved) right, by suffering the curse of what at least we on this side of the Pond like to call, or at least used to like to call, downward mobility.  And yet, to judge by all hard economic indicators, indicators supplied to me by the very same Beeb that prides itself on democratizing its linguistic landscape, the UK has not lately been witness-cum-party to any such access of wholesale tit-for-tat-ism.  Indeed, to judge by these indicators, something quite different and altogether anti-egalitarian has been going on-stroke-in existence, something less akin to a swap-shop than to a concentration camp, wherein the pigshit carters, coal miners, and rag-and-bone traders have been queuing up to be simply dispossessed of the tools of their trade by the old-school posh MPs, painters, and astrophysicists, and then summarily dumped on to the conveyor belt leading to the meat-grinder for dog food.  I am referring here, of no course, to the UK-wide (and indeed, Anglosphere wide) ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, otherwise known as the ever-increasing concentration of wealth, which, in the light of the established socio-economic constitution of the rich, can only amount to an expansion or consolidation of the power of the old poshility, to a strengthening of the old school tie’s chokehold on the remainder of the UK’s body politic-cum-economic.  If the UK’s rich have only gotten richer over the past forty or fifty years, it follows, given that most rich people, like most poor and middle-class people, prefer to leave the bulk of their wealth to their spouses and children, that the upper socioeconomic strata occupy a larger rather than a smaller proportion of positions of power and prestige than they did forty or fifty years ago, and hence that the majority of those MPs, painters, and astrophysicists who talk in silly accents and dialects over the UK airwaves are not scions of salt-of-the-earth working-class families who (supposedly) cannot help speaking in those accents and dialects, but rather scions of the old pohsility who have deliberately chosen to speak in some accent or dialect other than RP or standard English.  And so we are brought full circle to our bafflement, our non-plussedness, vis-à-vis the efficient cause, the final cause, and the collective motivation of the UK-wide linguistic sea-change.  For in face of the indisputable and ineluctable economic indicators, the usual rationalizations of such linguistic switcherooism simply will not stick.  It will not do, for example, to say that the poshites are slumming in talking like the pigshit carters, coal miners, and rag-and-bone collectors of yesteryear because slumming arises from a sense of socioeconomic insecurity—the slummer adopts the folkways of his inferiors because he worries they are on the rise and either wishes to assure himself that they are not as much of a threat to him and his socioeconomic peers as he feared (for if they were truly dangerous they would be impossible to mimic accurately) or to protect himself personally from the guillotine by getting in their good books before the revolution actually breaks out—and the established hard economic indicators assure us that the UK’s rich have had absolutely nothing to be insecure about for at least the last past half-century.  I would fain point to the perduring and perhaps even growing sweep of RP’s Stateside analogue, Standard American English, as a norm, as an article in proof that the UK need not have exploded as it has done into a farrago of ludicrously factitious linguistic heterogeneity, but I cannot do so in good faith, knowing as I do that the stubborn persistence and quasi-prestige of the taxi-driver patois and Tri-State-area mobsterish aphasia prove that we are not exactly linguistic angels over here.  Nor even if I could do so would I stand any chance of winning any converts on either side of the Pond, thanks to the above-hinted at near-universality and obduracy of belief in the British class system, which oddly enough is probably even stronger and more widespread in the States than in Britain itself.  To put it more precisely: incredible as it may seem, most Americans seem to believe that there is some intrinsic and significant difference between the social organization of a republic and that of a monarchy, and that the survival of a legally recognized peerage in Britain in contrast to the built-in absence of such an institution over here bespeaks some profound, congenital, ineradicable difference between the British and American Volksgeister, a difference that is naturally thought to be manifested in our respective usages of the English language.   It is only natural, thinks the average Yank, for those limeys to have thousands of different sub-accents and dialects, because they have those thousands of different noble titles, and if you’re, say, an earl, there’s no easier way of putting a mere viscount in his place than by pronouncing, say, the word tomahtew in a smidge snootier way than he does.  Complementarily (thinks this selfsame Yank) it is only natural for us Yanks to have one accent-cum-dialect because we don’t have any of those fancy-pants titles and distinctions over here.  If you’re Mr. Smith and I’m Mr. Jones, we both might as well pronounce tomato in exactly the same unpretentious slack-assed way, because each of us is a mere mister with neither the desire to prove nor the possibility of proving he is better than the next man, wo or otherwise.  How lucky we Yanks are to live in a classless society!  And now that I have opened the rusty old catering-sized can of worm-eaten worms that is the notion of the classless society, the reader doubtless expects me to launch into the only slightly less worm-eaten polemic traditionally directed against that notion by lefties and curmudgeons—viz., that despite its absence of a titled nobility, the United States is if anything even more minutely and straitenedly stratified into classes than Britain, and that here a host of patterns of production, consumption, and, yes, language-usage, serve to distinguish the classes from  one another far more tellingly and efficiently than an official system of peerage ever could do.  But I am going to launch into no such polemic, not because I do not believe that class distinctions cannot be thus tellingly and efficiently conveyed or because I do not believe they have been thus tellingly and efficiently conveyed in the United States, as because I do not think the notion of class, at least as conventionally deployed, can adequately account for the linguistic and paralinguistic vices I am inveighing against.  Today’s British painters, MPs, and astrophysicists are not obliquely expressing their upper- middle class identity by talking like antique coal miners, pig shit carters, and rag and bone men; nor are today’s American taxi drivers expressing their working or sub-working class identity by omitting and interpolating terminal esses as though they were still living in certain conditions that cannot be named during a certain historical time range that cannot be specified; rather, they are both or all  expressing their shared radically bourgeois-cum-radically lumpen proletarian whorishness-cum-doggishness-cum-swinishness, a whorishness-cum-doggishness-cum-swinishness that all friends of civilization hailing from all traditional classes, races, creeds, and subcultures ought to abhor and oppose with a well-nigh Willisian vengeance.  Let us not forget that the very concept of class in a socioeconomic sense is of no great antiquity, that it is in fact basically a concept of Marxian coinage (although, to be sure, as with most non-outright neologisms, one can find quasi-precedents for its new-coined sense in the very earliest stages of the language) that was devised for the (grand-scheme-of-things-istically speaking) tactical purpose of defamiliarizing received notions about the way the world worked at a specific historical moment, the moment of the wholesale industrialization of the production of commodities in common everyday use.  At that moment (i.e., ca. 1790-1840) there was a great deal of petulant talk in the newspapers, as well as in such public opinion-setting journals as the Edinburgh Review, about the established order and of disgruntled ne’er-do-wells who wanted to upset that order.  That established order was of course conceived, and wrongly so, by these petulant scribblers as a single, static, immemorial organic entity; and to that wrong, historical monistic conception the new socioeconomic conception of class administered a salutary fillip, by pointing out to them that that order was in fact dynamic and multifarious, comprising a number of collectivities, some of them on the rise and some of them in decline.  “You may think, Mr Twitt-Thornwaite,” conjecturally quoth the Marxist critic in the letters section of the Edinburgh Review, “that you merely want to uphold ‘established order’ to but all you really want is to uphold your diurnal whist rubber-cum-port bong fest at the Retrenchment Club with your fellow grands bourgeoises, Mr Dives the banker and Mr Duck the textiles manufacturer.  Complementarily, you are wrong in believing all those textile workers and coal miners and are trying to overthrow the established order in refusing to work.  All they really want is a roof over their collective heads, a chicken in their collective stockpot, and shoes on their collective bunion-ridden feet.”  But the salutariness, meaning basically the accuracy, of this critique’s years were numbered, not because the grands bourgeoises ceased to think they were upholding the established order or the proletariat ceased to think they were just trying to put a roof over their heads, etc. (because neither of them ceased to think either of these things), but because the fundamental, driving, efficiently causing object of their desire had shifted, owing to the productive momentum of the very system that had made the class-centered critique tenable in the first place.   For you see, from the very beginning, or even from before the very beginning—meaning before the invention of the steam engine (ca. 1700)—from the consumer side industrial production had been driven not only by the demand for use-value commodities, for products answering to some intrinsic human need, but also by the demand for exchange-value commodities, products that were prized because they were thought to be more difficult to produce or procure than certain other commodities.  Needless to say, in the case of many commodities it is virtually impossible to determine where their use value begins and their exchange value ends, as King Lear’s animadversion on his daughter Regan’s sartorial finery [II.iv.267-273] eloquently attests, but such mass economic phenomena as the tulip craze in the Netherlands in the early 1630s prove that it is certainly possible for a commodity with virtually no use value to become very highly prized indeed.  Exchange-value commodities are intrinsically corrosive of human social collectivities such as classes, not so much on account of their uselessness as on account of their churlishly unclubbable, rebus-like immiscibility with other commodities.   If you, my next-door neighbor, and I, are both chiefly keen on fitting our respective houses with indoor plumbing, we will be united in our enthusiasm for the commodities associated therewith—pumps, PVC piping, and the like; and we may even seek to pool our resources towards the purchasing of those commodities at an economically competitive price—and this is all eminently sensible because the pumps, the pipes, etc., have got to work in concert.  If, on the other hand, we both already have indoor plumbing and your favorite class of commodity is the tulip whilst I am a rabid collector of exotic golf balls (not clubs, cleated shoes, and other golfing paraphernalia, mind you, just balls), why, then, we have got nothing to say to each other, as they say; because, after all, what difference does a tulip make to a golf ball, or vice-versa?  Now, as I have already implied, there is nothing new about exchange-value commodities, but from Biblical times through perhaps the early twentieth century they absorbed the libidos of only a small portion of the total economic biomass—namely and quite bluntly but not inaccurately, fairly to very well-to-do women.  And so throughout that five millennia-long mega-era people did tend to look to their interests principally as members of collectivities—tribes, nations, religious communities, and, yes, eventually, classes.  But over the course of the twentieth century, as even the memory of the struggle for subsistence-level comfort gradually evaporated from the general consciousness in the developed West, exchange-value commodities came to take up an ever-increasing and eventually predominant share of  the libidinous energies of all sorts of people and eventually every sort of person.  By the late twentieth century the fetishization of exchange value had long since ceased to be the exclusive purview of idle society ladies—of Society Lady A who had to have the latest whalebone stays from Paris, measuring herself not only against Society Lady B, who always seemed to be wearing the latest stays before her own had even arrived in the post, but also Society Lady C, who seemed to be giving up stays entirely in favor of a free-flowing dress gathered in immediately below the breastbone (but who knew where this fashion had come from or whether it would catch on?), and Society Lady D, whose stays were always two years out of date, but who had a peerless collection of Gainsboroughs (but would Gainsborough ever really be as popular as Reynolds?)—rather, it had become the ruling passion of every sort of person in every walk of life, of, for example, the hard-working married male accountant.  Of course, there are the obvious consumerist questions such a man is likely to ponder: e.g., “Should I upgrade to the latest model of *-P*o*e; should I exchange my gym membership for one of those micturational homophones that Junior can likewise get some use out of?”—questions that pose no obvious threat to a traditionally Marxist class-centered analysis of the porqueria that is the recent-cum-present state of the Weltgeist.  But there are others that defiantly defy such analysis, e.g., “Why am I taking an econo-priced generic medication for my high blood pressure when I could be taking an expensive name-brand medication like the one Jenkins in receivable is taking?  And what about those high-heeled cross-training shoes Junior has started wearing to school?  Might I not consider acquiring a pair of them for my matutinal jog?  And should I perhaps not begin to consider cross-dressing at least once a week?” By this pseudo-moment in what sorrily passes for history, people have long since ceased to be able to think of not merely figuratively anything—including their own corporeal-cum-mental persons—as possessing a value that cannot not be expressed in terms of exchange.  At every turn, in every choice one makes about quite literally everything—and not only at the supermarket shelf-cum-checkout till—everybody expects himself or herself to ask himself or herself, “Is this thing that I am about to buy or act that I am about to engage in more marketable--or, more to the point, likely in the near future to be more marketable--than the alternative?”  In virtue of its actuation by isolated human beings rather than by collectivities, this state of affairs may seem to signalize humankind’s reversion to a Hobbesian state of nature, to a world of every man for himself, of homo homini lupus, of dog eat dog, of catch-as-catch-can, of no holds barred, of sauve qui peut (la vie), but it really is nothing (or at least hardly anything) of the kind.  To be sure, the exchange-value gourmandizer would see his own grandmother put to death rather than forego communion with his favorite commodity or be forced to commune with his commodified bête noir, but he does not regard his grandmother as a rival or competitor; for if he did then her conjectural subjectivity would always be uppermost in his thoughts—he would for ever be wondering, ‘What is Gran thinking right now?  What is she scheming at?  What is it about her libidinous constitution that makes her want to get hold of the same model of platform cross-training shoes as the one I covet?” etc.; whereas in fact he is never thinking about his granny as a subject at all, but rather at most as some kind of insentient bollard-like barrier to his attainment of his favorite commodity, or as some sort of loathsome dog-turd like excretion of his commodified bête noir.  In point of fact, the libidinous economy of the exchange-value gourmandizer is completely anti-social and anti-intersubjective (one might even have described it a*t*stic as recently as a half-century ago, when certain mental illnesses had yet to acquire Dow-Jones and FTSE listings) and could function perfectly smoothly and indeed perhaps even more efficiently in the complete absence of other human beings.  The exchange-value gourmandizer would be just as happy and just as miserable, and for exactly the same reasons, if, rather than involuntarily rubbing shoulders with thousands of his fellow exchange-value gourmandizers at the shopping mall or touting for friends on F******k he were simply wandering all on his lonesome through a sort of Tantalus’s forest filled with trees from whose only occasionally reachable branches dangling coveted commodities, or legging it up an Alpine, Rocky, or Himalayan mountain devoid of past, present, or prospective fellow-climbers.  “So, then, are you saying that the exchange-value gourmandizer is a kind of narcissist or solipsist, and that accordingly the principal cogwheel or piston in today’s socioeconomic engine is one of  narcissism or solipsism?”  Not at all, for the narcissist or solipsist is preoccupied with himself qua self; he is preeminently or perhaps even exclusively interested in uncovering and analyzing whatever it is he rightly or wrongly fancies distinguishes himself from other people (or, more restrictively, in the case of the solipsist, those apparitions that he tricks himself into believing are other people).  The exchange-value gourmandizer, in contrast, views himself merely as a sort of placeholding roving sandspur that must simply affix itself to the commodity of highest exchange value that it comes within sticking range of.  To be sure, to the naïve onlooker or eavesdropper, he may seem to be inordinately egoistic, what with his constant yammering on about “I, I, I” and “me, me, me,” but the “I”s and the “me”s are mere grammatical conduits for the advertisement of his affiliation with his favorite commodities.  “Very well, but what has all this got do with Englishpeople saying ‘sat’ instead of ‘sitting’ and American taxi-drivers omitting and obtruding terminal esses?”  Practically everything, DGR, practically everything.  For if by the early twenty-first century English-speaking people have long since utterly given over collective auto-affiliation with use-value commodities and socioeconomic classes in favor of monadistic (not solipsistic or narcissistic) auto-affiliation with exchange-value commodities, it follows that the diversity of patois(es), dialects, and accents in the present-day Anglosphere must be manifestations of exercises in self-marketing rather than of some miraculous recrudescence of microcolletive solidarity, and it further follows that adherence either to the old RP or to Standard American English constitutes a more old-fashioned, more clubbable, and on the whole more humane alternative to the adoption of any alternative patois, dialect, or accent.  To put it in more concrete, particular, and quasi-familiar terms: the quinquagenarian Novocastrian astrophysicist who chooses to accentuate rather than to soften his Geordie accent does so not at all because he wants to show he is not ashamed of where he cooms froom, but because he is afraid of seeming less distinctive, and therefore less marketable.  “But marketable to whom?”  Why, to the ever-broadening and ever-more-discriminating circle of connoisseurs of regional English accents—a circle now comprising, for example, certain Londoners who no longer find a Yorkshire accent sufficiently gamily recherché, or certain Americans who, now that they have begun supporting specific English football clubs and entering the lists of the attendant inter-city rivalries, are concomitantly becoming more sensitive to the factitious—but for all that universally sanctioned—linguistic habits and folkways of specific English microregions.  Forty-five years ago, as a bairn, tyke, or nipper, our Geordie future stargazer spoke in a lightly Northernized RP, not in order to “get ahead” or “scrape the working-class crud off the soles of his public-school boots,” but because that was the modus loquendi of most people in his immediate social orbit.  Twenty-five years ago, as an up-and-coming academician, he could still make a decent appearance in the world solely on the strength of his (purportedly) groundbreaking work in astrophysics, although he was already beginning to have to mind his ees and oos; now he is fanatically lauded on three continents as “the Geordie astrophysicist,” and is compelled to be forever lovingly preening his accent, the producer-side complement to the interest in (say) regional Indian subcontinental cuisines he is forced to cultivate as a consumer.  And if, as they say, present trends continue, twenty years hence, as a doddering pensioner [insert obligatory lefty jab at the Conservatives, viz. “although, if Mr. Cameron gets his druthers, this septuagenarian will then only just be beginning to embark on his second career as a shelf-stocker at Waitrose {other supermarket chains are now, and perhaps will even still then be, available}], our astrophysicist will be compelled to expound the accent-cum-dialect-cum-patois of a specific Newcastle postcode (just as he will be compelled to seek out the cuisines of specific subcontinental counties and municipalities).  “And yet, presumably, his exact contemporary-cum-bosom colleague, an astrophysicist hailing from, say, Asheville, North Carolina, has been suffered to make his or her way solely on the strength of his or her (purportedly) groundbreaking work in astrophysics, and has not been compelled to style himself or herself the Northwestern Carolinian astrophysicist.” Not necessarily.  He or she may very well feel pressured, as they say, to take an interest in the pickin’-‘n’-grinnin’ pseudo-tradition of pseudo-folk music of his native microregion, perhaps even to the extent of regarding himself or herself as being obliged to take up playing the banjo, and consequently to go an intercontinental tour as “The Pickin’-‘n’-Grinnin’ Astrophysicist.”  “But peri- and paralinguistically speaking--” –Peri and paralinguistically speaking you are more or less absolutely right: in the United States an Ashvillean astrophysicist can (as of now) live out the entirety of his professional natural while speaking nothing but Standard American English.  “And yet again, this selfsame Ashvillean astrophysicist hails from the United States, the country in which salesmanship allegedly stands head and shoulders above Godmanship, a country in which allegedly if anything can be turned into a buck, presumably including a regional accent, patois, or dialect, it will be.”  Indeed, indisputably.  “So what gives?”  Well, in order to take even the most tentative crack at answering that question, I am finally going to have to take a decisive, peremptory crack (for “have to take…a crack” read “treat myself to the pleasure of taking &c.”) at the thin, 3” x 14” (sic on the omission of metric equivalents in this parenthesis) pane of glass separating you, DGR, and me alike from the historo-epistemological fire extinguisher that is the Boswellian-Johnsonian corpus.  But even before taking that D&P crack at the B&J C, I really do feel duty-bound to mention that such a historical retro-conspectus confined to the written corpus of our language is not the only or even necessarily the most expeditious path to the general conclusions that I wish to inculcate, that even the most cursory, occasional, or desultory eyeing-over of the Continental European feuilletons will suffice to convince you, DGR, that all to-ing and fro-ing and finger-pointing on linguistic, perilinguistic, and paralinguistic matters within the Anglosphere never exceeds the stature of the most dwarfishly dimensioned hooey, balderdash, humbug, claptrap, b******t, etc.  You see, in the mind of every Frenchman, Italian, German, Luxembourgeois, etc. (aut et al.), who has ever committed an opinion about us to paper, we Yanks, Limeys, Aussies, Maple Tree-F***ers, Kiwis, and Micks (but for some reason not Kenyans, South Africans, Botswanans etc. [aut al.]—which is really too bad inasmuch as the English of the average educated African Anglophone puts to shame that of his counterpart in each of the non-African countries of the Anglosphere), together comprise a single, “culturally” (and hence perforce linguistically) monolithic tribe known, mutatis orthographicis mutandis, as the Anglo-Saxons.  Whether these scribblers are at bottom justified in thus lumping us all together is disputable and ultimately beside the point, which is that the journalistic mobilities of dozens of countries and linguistic so-called communities have quasi-mutually independently (meaning more than pseudo-mutually independently albeit less than genuinely mutually independently) come up with the idea that we English-speakers are all basically much more like one another than we are like any of them, and hence that the notion of a single transcontinental standard of spoken and written English is not inherently preposterous or blasphemous.  But as the exchange value of Continental feuilletonage, like virtually all things Continental that are neither edible nor accessible only by jet or ocean liner, is practically nil, I must assume a readership that knows the Anglosphere exclusively from the inside and therefore can be persuaded of the prevailing uniformity of the English language only via examples drawn from within that sphere.  The Johnsonian-Boswellian corpus is an ideal compendium of such examples for several reasons.  First, it hails from the mid-to-late eighteenth century, a semi-age when the Anglosphere was united under the auspices of a single legal and administrative apparatus, the British State (meaning effectively the British House of Commons, although there were periods, notably the middle one of George III’s reign, when the monarch had to be humored), such that at least in principle the English spoken and written in Philadelphia was no more or less beholden to London than was the English spoken in Leeds, Cardiff, Dublin, or Edinburgh; when to be a duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron meant as much and as little on this side of the Atlantic as on the other one; when the collective-inimical fetishization of exchange-value was already healthily in swing or solidly underway in certain sectors of what was not yet known as the economy, even as the collective-fetishizing notion of class struggle had yet to be formulated.  En masse and tout court, the bare historical givens of the BJC bid fair to permit the clearing away of the mile-thick layer of b*****t (or, as Johnson would more genteelly term it, cant), of the 2.5 km-high pile of cognitive lumber, that has accumulated atop the question of the English language since the advent of the high season of industrial capitalism.  If, as I intend to show, it was already both desirable and possible way back then for people from mutually far-flung corners of the Anglosphere and opposite poles of the social hierarchy to address each other in versions of English that were not only mutually intelligible but also virtually mutually indistinguishable, it ought surely to be both desirable and possible for people in mutually adjacent counties and income-brackets to do so now; complementarily, if, as I also intend to show, it was already possible way back then for English speakers to highlight and exploit marginal and factitious linguistic differences as exchange-value commodities, we ought to be at minimum mildly skeptical of all claims to linguistic singularity that seek legitimation in any notion of continuity or contiguity of collective experience.  Second, Johnson and Boswell hailed from places (viz. Lichfield in Staffordshire, and Edinburgh, respectively) that were both at appreciable removes from London and at substantially discrepant degrees of remove (viz. roughly 100 and roughly 300 miles, respectively) from it.  Accordingly, to the extent that we think of London as setting the linguistic standard for the eighteenth-century Anglosphere, both Johnson and Boswell were linguistic peripherals; and at the same time, by any naïve (but by no means summarily dismissible) correlation of distance from the center with deviation from the standard, Boswell’s English should have been, caeteris paribus, three times as outré, as non- or extra-standard, as un-London-like, as Johnson’s.  That it in fact was in some respects much more London-like than Johnson’s is something that I shall show and that is naturally highly suggestive vis-à-vis the notion of a geographically indifferent English standard.  Third, Johnson was the most accomplished student of the English language in his time and indeed of any time in which English in any form had yet been spoken or written.  We must accordingly take his pronouncements with a rather smaller pinch of salt than that with which we would season our portion of Joe Shoulder-of-Mutton-and-a-Clean-Shirt-a-Day’s.  If he declares, for example (an utterly fictitious one, for the sake of not introducing a single piece of the jigsaw puzzle of my argument prematurely), that a dachshund is called a dachshund in Pembrokeshire as well as in London, we might as well assume it was indeed called such in both places until we come across a preponderance of Pembrokeshire-originating references to sausage-dogs and teckels.  Fourth and final(ly), Johnson and Boswell jointly undertook a journey to the “Western Isles of Scotland,” the Inner Hebrides, via the Scottish Lowlands and Highlands, and thereby traced an itinerary that included both the most intellectually fecund cities north of London (namely Edinburgh and Glasgow, the twin capitals of the so-called Scottish Enlightenment) and the most technically backward, unenlightened, and un-Anglophone stretch of road (and road-free mud) in all the British territories east of, say, Pittsburgh.  Accordingly, they were afforded the opportunity of observing the limits of both pure erudition--so-called book learning--as a catalyst of rationality and elegance, and pure ignorance as an impeder of that pair of virtues.  And in the course of
their authorial exploitation of this opportunity in their two travel narratives, they both documented and shrewdly analyzed what was perhaps the first and certainly the thitherto most spectacular attempt to make linguistic marginality into a token of exchange value—namely the Ossian foist inspired by James Macpherson’s fake
translations from Scottish Gaelic, but mainly promulgated by other educated
Anglophone Scotsmen who only pretended not to know better.  The Ossian foist is of course a notable type or precursor of today’s English accent-cum-dialect-cum patois industry, and by dint of showing up the magnitude of the Ossian foist’s preposterousness in the context of its circumambient meta-linguistic elegance and rationality—the context of what already had been achieved in the way of a single, Anglosphere-wide standard of English usage by, say, 1770—one hopes to show how we early twenty first-century Anglophones may yet save ourselves from slipping any deeper into the abyss of meta-linguistic clownery and charlatanism.
But for my initial salvo from or incision or shovel-dip into the BJC, I have chosen—strategically of course—a passage that may at first blush appear to have no linguistic or meta-linguistic import whatsoever.  This is a passage hailing from Boswell’s Life of Johnson, specifically from Summer 1762/Aetat. 53, in other words, from more or less exactly a year before Boswell’s first encounter with Johnson.  It forms part of an anecdote derived by Boswell from Sir Joshua Reynolds, an anecdote of a trip to the city of Plymouth in Reynolds’s “native county, Devonshire” (268).  At the time of Johnson’s and Reynolds’s visit, the Plymouth quasi- or proto-metropolitan area was enjoying something of a boom, thanks to the recent relocation of the Royal Navy’s shipbuilding operations thitherto.  But as shipbuilding perforce cannot be undertaken even in such a slightly inland locale as the central city of Plymouth, “a new town had arisen about two miles off as a rival to the old” (269), prompting Johnson during his brief sojourn in the old town to put into effect a kind of mischievous anthropological (or perhaps sociological) experiment worthy of a Sacha Baron Cohen or Chris Morris: “knowing from his sagacity, and just observation of human nature, that it is certain if a man hates at all, he will hate his next neighbour; he concluded that this new and rising town could not but excite the envy and jealousy of the old, in which conjecture he was very soon confirmed; he therefore set himself resolutely on the side of the old town, the established town, in which his lot was cast, considering it as a kind of duty to stand by it.”  And so he roamed about old Plymouth denouncing “the dockers, as the inhabitants of the new town were called, as upstarts and aliens,” and even entering as a docker-basher into the lists of debates on municipal policy: vis-à-vis a petition by the new town to have fresh water supplied to them from a river running through the old town, Johnson, “affecting to entertain the passions of the place, was violent in opposition; and, half-laughing at himself for his pretended zeal where he had no concern, exclaimed, ‘No, no! I am against the dockers; I am a Plymouth man.  Rogues! let them die of thirst.  They shall not have a drop!’”  I love this guy, as certain types of they say.  “Well I for woon,” retorts the DGR in a geographically inappropriate but ethically spot-on Leeds-Bradford conurbation accent, “hate this guy’s mootherfoo**n’ goots.”  Whatever for, MDF?  “Why, for his coon**sh indifference to the plight OOf the Old-Town PlymOOOthers, of course.  It’s all very *ookin’ well for him, a farncy parnts Loononder--” –I’m terribly sorry for interrupting, but historical accuracy really does require your styling him either a fancy-drawers or fancy-breeches Londoner—“-very foo*in’ well: its all very *ook in’ well for him, a farncy-drawers Loondoner to get oop on his high horse about the Old Towners’ oombrage against the dockers, boot sOOposing he was himself a native Old Towner—well then, the shuhr would very mooch have been on the oother fuhrt.”  I’m terribly sorry to drop into the discourse again, but what exactly are a shuhr and a fuhrt?  “Jesus foo*in Christ almighty on a *ookin’ anti gravity-spring’d pogo-stick, what a doom-assed [sic on the Americanism] foo*in git you are!  A fuhrt’s the thing at the end of your leg, and a shuhr’s the thing you foo*in’ puhrt it in.”  I see.  But in all gormless Sinatraness, I should have thought that in the light of your dialect’s predilection for the oo phoneme—“—we’d pronounce shuhr as shOO and fuhrt as fOOt.  Well, no sooch foo*in’ loock for you, as if a git like you deserved it.  Carn’t you *ookin’ see that we have to distinguish ourselves from you tight-assed [sic again on the Americanism] sootherners and Yanks any way we carn, and fOOt and shOO are practically indistinguishable from your lot’s pronunciation?”  Oh yes, I see all right.  But we’re getting rather far away from your remonstrative displaced apostrophe to Dr. Johnson, aren’t we?  You were saying that if he had been a native of Plymouth Old Town—“—right: I was saying if he had been a native Plymouth Old-Towner he’d have been right oop there in the froont lines, the bahrricades, campaigning in earnest and not merely in jest against the f*okin’ dockers.  Cos arfter all,  in thart case he wouldn’t have had a return to his cozy, three clean-shirts-cuhrm-three-shoulders of mootton-per-day, toffish Loondoner’s lifestyle to look forward to; then he would have a personal stake in defeating those accursed dockers, who would after all have been trying to snartch the very bread and booter of his livelihood straight out of his gob.”  Ah, but would he really have had and would they really have been?  From Boswell’s account we know that the new dockyard-centered town of Plymouth was thriving, but we have no reason to gather therefrom that the old town of Plymouth was languishing.  The old-town Plymouthers obviously had ample grounds for envying the inhabitants of the new town, but they apparently had no grounds whatsoever for feeling either threatened or aggrieved by them.  The river, Boswell tells us, “ran to waste in the town,” meaning that it supplied the old-towners with much more water than they could ever use, so that the shunting off of a small portion of the river’s current to the new-towners would not have deprived the old-towners of anything they needed; therefore the only motive for their opposition to such a scheme must have been spite. Hence their animus against the new-towners is entitled only to as much respect and sympathy as any spiteful animus is entitled to—i.e., absolutely none—and Johnson’s ridiculing of them must be seen as a manifestation not of the callousness of a hoity-toity outsider insensible to the pain and hardship of the fuhrt-soldiers in the stroogle, but rather of the outrage and contempt any decent, sensible, and fair-minded person needs must feel in the face of the gratuitous undermining of anybody’s good fortune.  The inhabitants of the new town were not taking anything away from the inhabitants of the old town; indeed, inasmuch as the naval dockyard must have attracted to the Plymouth quasi- or proto-metropolitan area at least scores and perhaps as many as thousands of deep-pocketed people who had never even been to Devonshire, the new-towners were probably ameliorating rather than worsening the economic lot of the old-towners.  Why then did the old-towners so zealously seek to ecraser les imfames new-towners and vilify them under the disparaging dishonorific of dockers?  They did so merely because the naval yard was new and future-orientated, because it was au courant, le dernier cri, hip, branche a la con, trendy, or what have you, and they, the old towners, owing to the two-mile gap between their houses, shops, churches, etc. and those of the new-towners, had no superficially plausible cause to associate themselves with its trendiness.  Although via the slightest, the most token, exertion of effort—i.e., via the construction of a conduit leading from the river to the dockyard—the old-towners could have solidified their material ties to the new-towners, they could never (or at least not in their prospective lifetimes), even with the most Heraclean (sic) exertion of effort, have established the most tenuous symbolic ties to the oh-so-trendy work being performed down at the docks.  And so they had to blanket the entire dockyard operation, which in their hearts’ hearts they virtually deified, with an impenetrable camouflage canopy of sour grapes, by reifying (as we would say nowadays) every last person immediately associated with it (in contradistinction to its mediate beneficiaries, i.e., themselves) as a docker, as an affiliate of a mere allegedly infinitely replicable thing, a dock, in contradistinction to an allegedly infungible place, viz. Plymouth, defined with arbitrary restrictiveness as the cluster of houses, streets, churches, etc., comprising the old town.   
I have started with this anecdote from the Life because it points up at the most general level the extents to which 1) exchange value is capable of masquerading as use value, 2) an ineradicably hyper-naïve conception of geography comes to the aid of this masquerade, and 3) this masquerade is capable of being if not called off then at least conclusively pilloried by the feeblest, most asthmatic puff of old-fashioned Aristotlelian logic, as administered by any human being who quite rationally refuses to get down on all fours before the Tomcat Moloch of geographical hyper-naivety.  At early twenty first-century first blush, an irredeemably shameless blush that regardless of its political persuasion has been miseducated by two-and-a-quarter centuries of drivel about class struggle, the animus of the old-towners towards the dockers may seem to have been the issue of a conflict between two human communities over a scarcity of resources.  In truth it was the issue of a single human pseudo- community’s—namely the old-town Plymouthers’—greed for affiliation with an exchange-value commodity whose stocks were on the rise.  At early twenty first-century shameless-cum-miseducated first blush, Samuel Johnson’s lampooning of the old-town Plymouthers may seem to have been a reflexive assertion of mollycoddled big-city snobbery, a late eighteenth-century analogue to the early twentieth-century New Yorker’s kvetchfest over the impossibility of getting a decent bagel in Peoria.  In reality it was much more of a late eighteenth-century analogue to the refusal of a native Peorian to sign his neighborhood café-owner’s petition to have a “New York-style bagel emporium” across the street shut down and its proprietor publicly drawn and quartered.  At bottom the Ossian foist of a dozen years later was merely a magnified restaging of the dockers foist, with the entire Anglophone world replacing the Plymouth proto- or quasi-metropolitan area, with the lowland Scottish intelligentsia playing a role corresponding to the role of the Plymouth old-towners, and with Johnson reprising his role of balloon-popper.  But before presenting my discussion of the Ossian foist, the principal melody of my argument, so speak, I must, as it were, fill in the inner voices of that argument, by holding forth or spouting off in greater detail about some of the things I touched on earlier in my itemization of the virtues of the Boswellian-Johnsonian corpus qua cache of examples of socio-economically and geographically unrestricted English usage, so that the reader will understand how a Plymouth-like  in the specifically peri- and met.
Samuel Johnson is quite rightly known throughout the Anglosphere as the classic or archetypal Londoner; as recorded by Boswell, his countless and ever-recurring expressions of his inexhaustible admiration of the city and delight in living in it (e.g., “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” and “What is Pekin[g] to London?  A thousand Londoners would drive the people of Peking”) are among his most-quoted remarks.   Apart from Sherlock Holmes, there is probably no human individual, living or dead, real or fictional, who exudes the spirit of the metropolis of London from his own person with such radiant abundance as does Johnson.  And yet, as mentioned before, he was born rather far from London, in the small cathedral city of Lichfield, in Staffordshire, and although from his late teens through his mid-twenties he spent some fairly lengthy periods in other English cities, notably Oxford and Birmingham, he did not move to London until he was 28, an age that in the Dictionary he designates as the last year of youth, an age much older than that of the usual young man seeking to make his fortune in the Big Smoke, a Eugene Rastignac or Jamie Conway, or indeed a James Boswell, who was first bitten by the London bug at 18.  Such being the case, he was destined for the remainder of his days to be in a certain sense an outsider, a provincial, a yokel, and a hayseed.  I have just used both the verb “be” and the adverbial phrase “in a certain sense” most advisedly, meaning that I wish to bate a jot of neither the essentializing force of the one nor the qualifying, incapacitating force of the other.  To be sure, there is and ever has been, in all times, places, and ages, a certain chronological limbo stick-level beneath which to have passed in a specific locale marks one as effectively interchangeable with a native of that place, and above one cannot pass without being marked as an outsider thereof, although I doubt very much if anybody has ever succeeded in ascertaining that level.  To be sure, only the most pedantic Anglophobe is going to cast aspersions on Bob Hope’s Clevelandian bona fides because he was born and spent the first four years of his life in England, but Mel Gibson’s Australianness and Gillian Anderson’s Michiganity are both quite rightly much disputed for their having not settled in Australia and Michigan until the early years of their second decades.  And I for my part, despite having moved to Baltimore more than twenty years ago and consequently spent nearly half my life as a resident of that (or indeed this) city, do not feel at all inclined or entitled to lord it over any non-Baltimorean about the way things are done here in Baltimore.  On the other hand, I do very much feel inclined and somewhat, albeit ever-more-feebly, entitled to lord it over any non-resident of my native city of Tampa about the way things are done down there in that city.  Of course I am not quite as old as Johnson was when he met Boswell (to be precise I am 42/53rds as old); when I am (or rather if I get to be) quite that old as a Baltimore resident I may both feel like and be seen to embody the archetypal organic Baltimorean, or in other words to have shed every last vestigelet of my Tampaneity; until then I reserve the right to suspect that tho’ one can take the Tampan out of Tampa one cannot take Tampa out of the Tampan; and, by analogous retrospective extension, that tho’ one could have taken the eighteenth-century Lichfeldian out of Lichfield, one could not have taken the eighteenth-century Lichfield out of the eighteenth-century Lichfeldian.  So then: how many and which, if any, exactly were the distinctly Lichfeldian qualities that Johnson had a right either to lord it over or churl it under his non Lichfield–bred fellow-Londoners about?  To “observation with extensive view”’s mind it would seem that there was exactly one apiece of each of these Lichfeldian qualities.  The lording it over-worthy one was a certain municipality-wide bookishness, a respect for scholarly erudition that was not merely confined to the usual of provincial clique of clerics and schoolmasters and that enabled the little city to punch far above its weight as both a center of learning and an exporter of men and women of letters.  At the end of the seventeenth century Birmingham, England’s second or third-largest city, did not have a bookstore, and if a Brummie of those days wanted to buy a book he would have to turn to Michael Johnson, Samuel Johnson’s father, “who used to open a shop” in Birmingham every market day.”
The churling under-worthy Lichfeldian quality was its non-London standard phonological norm, in other words the eccentric if not necessarily peculiar accent of its inhabitants.  Johnson tried very hard to lose the accent but conceded that he had not been wholly successful in the attempt: he admitted that a careful listener would be able to detect his county of origin.  If his friends had been more frank with him, he might have learned that careful listening was by no means required.  One particular Lichfieldism they found both quite striking and infinitely amusing: this was the pronunciation of the flat or short ‘u’ in words like ‘but’ and ‘cut’ with a long ‘u’ sound that Boswell chose to represent phonetically as ‘oo.’  “In other words would have habitually made the vowel swap you have instanced as typical of the northern accents of today and somewhat exaggeratedly lampooned in the ‘ooze’ for ‘us’ substitution.”  Yes, although it is not at all clear whether the ‘oo’ in his case was closer to the ‘oo’ in book or to the ‘oo’ in food, mood, or, indeed, ooze.  But whatever precisely it sounded like, it was sufficiently heterodox or un-Londinian to attract the notice and ridicule of Boswell, David Garrick, and anybody they happened to be hanging out with in Johnson’s absence.
“Hang about, though, hang about.  Wasn’t David Garrick himself from Lichfield?  And is not the ‘oo’-for-short-‘u’ swap not only a characteristic of present-day northern English accents but also of all present-day Scottish accents?”
Indeed he was and indeed it is.
“Why, then, did Garrick and Boswell both find the swap so ridiculous in Johnson?”
Well, in the absence of any anecdotage in which Johnson’s accent is compared to Boswell’s or Garrick’s by a third party of Londinian birth, we cannot conclusively refute reflexive cynicism’s answer to this question: namely, that both Garrick and Boswell were also flagrant “oo”-for-short-“u’”-swappers, and that mere vanity prevented them from hearing (or at any rate from acknowledging) this tic in their own phonological idiolects.  But the most cynical explanation is not always the simplest one.  People often ridicule certain attributes of other people because they are unable or unwilling to acknowledge their own possession of these same attributes, but they even more often ridicule such attributes when they do not possess them and simply find them ridiculous.  And such I think is likely to be the explanation here.  Garrick, born in 1717, was eight years Johnson’s junior; hence, when he arrived in London he was only 20 years old, perhaps still young enough to extirpate every last trace of Lichfeldianism from his idiolect.  (If one conformed to Johnson’s conviction, one would probably be inclined to think otherwise: “We know that after a certain age we cannot learn to pronounce a new language. No foreigner, who comes to England when advanced in life, ever pronounces English tolerably well; at least such instances are very rare.”  Logically, for “foreigner” and “England” we are entitled to substitute “provincial” and “London”; the only soupcon of doubt is introduced by the chronological vagueness of “an advanced age”: it could mean any point of life from late infancy to late middle age.)  And as for Boswell—well, I am sure the professional linguistic historians (veritable captains of the regional linguistic kitsch industry to a man and a woman) are going to tar and feather me for saying this—but it is possible that the “oo”-for-short-“u”-swap was neither a feature of the mainstream Scottish accent of Boswell’s day nor a feature of his idiolect.  In the course of his repeated and extensive peregrinations of Great Britain, Ireland, and continental Europe, Boswell met plenty of literate non-Scottish people.  To be sure, most of these people took an immediate and permanent shine to him, but a substantial minority of them did not and were not shy about recording their unfavorable impressions of him.  They (and I am thinking here especially of the letter-writer Horace Walpole, the poet Thomas Gray, and Boswell’s best friend-cum-worst enemy, the Reverend William Johnson Temple) described him variously as a fop, a coxcomb, a green goose, a whoremaster, a drunkard, a lay-about, and an overbearing egomaniac.  If this minority—who shared the characteristic of being easily offended by violations of the bienseances, of the minutiae of correct behavior—could have topped off this catalogue of dishonorifics by impugning Boswell’s English pronunciation or usage, they presumably would have done so.  That they did not suggests that Boswell spoke an English that varied at most very slightly from the educated London standard of his day.  This is not to say that he spoke an English that differed virtually imperceptibly from Received Pronunciation, that his accent could not have been picked out of an auditory police line-up otherwise consisting of the phonological idolects of Winston Churchill, Bertrand Russell, and Dame Edith Evans, for it is abundantly clear even from the slender segment of the corpus of written middle to-late eighteenth-century English constituted by the Boswellian-Johnsonian corpus alone that the educated London accent of the middle-to-late eighteenth century diverged from Received Pronunciation in several salient respects.  Most signally and conspicuously --here again the linguistic historians, who maintain that this feature of British English died out in Shakespeare’s day at the very latest, are bound to pounce on me—the speech of educated middle-to-late-eighteenth educated Londoners differed from that of their RP-speaking descendants in being rhotic, in giving full value to the “r” sound not at the beginnings of words and in between vowels, but also at the ends of words and before non-word ending consonants.  Thus, whereas the pre-late twentieth-century educated Londoner pronounced the word shore as a homophone of the surname Shaw (and accordingly took endless amusement in a certain pop singer’s bearing both that surname and a Christian name of Sandy), his middle to late eighteenth-century ancestor in giving full value to the “r” in shore pronounced the word and the name differently.  Thus, whereas the pre-late twentieth century educated Londoner had to import the unvoiced guttural German consonant known to the phoneticists as “x” in order to distinguish the surname of the composer of The Art of Fugue from the outer coating of a tree trunk, the mid to late eighteenth-century Londoner could pronounce the last two characters of the cantor of St. Thomas’s cognomen as a native English “k” without fear of misinterpretation (although he probably would have had to designate him as “old Johann Sebastian” to avoid confusion of him with his son Johann Christian, who owing to his longtime London residence was more famous than his father in Britain).  We know that educated London speech was rhotic because in his entry in the Dictionary for the letter R, Johnson states that that letter “is never mute.”  “Presumably,” presumes the voice of reflexive cynicism, “he was so categorical in his assertion of this point because some Englishpeople of his day did sometimes mute the letter R and he wished to do everything he could to keep them from winning out.”  No: presumably he was so categorical in his assertion of this point because he wished to distinguish R from those numerous letters (notably W and E) that then as now were often silent, and whose intermittent muteness he remarks on in their respective entries.  In any case, I have neither the need nor the wish to maintain that nobody dropped his or her arrs in the Britain of Johnson and Boswell’s day: it suffices for my present purposes and desires to establish that most people did not.  “And what, pray tell are your present purposes and desires?”  My PPs and Ds essentially are to cordon the late eighteenth century off from the Victorian era, an era in which both class was already indisputably a topic or pseudo-phenomenon of public interest and something quite close to RP was indisputably in place as a phonological norm (for example, in one of the later novels of Dickens the French compound est-ce-que is represented phonetically as esker).  And further towards the attainment of these PPs and Ds, I shall instance a second respect in which middle-to-late eighteenth century educated London pronunciation differed from its early-to-middle twentieth-century counterpart: it tended to throw forward or flatten the short ‘o’ in words like got and cot, so that it sounded more like the ‘a’ in words like father and palm (by the way, shame on you, no matter what sector of the Anglosphere you hail from,  if you pronounce the ‘l’ in palm [or calm]!), or even in words like fan and cat.  The most celebrated—or notorious—example of this ‘o’-flattening or forward-throwing occurred in the intermittently trendy pronunciation of God as Gad, best known from Richard Sheridan’s School for Scandal.  (In its treatment of the name of the Deity, post-RP pseudo-educated British English has regrettably gone just as far in the opposite direction, bulking up or throwing back the ‘o’ sound to the point at which God is phonetically interchangeable with gored, a corruption that makes only too much historical if nary a jot of practically justifiable sense when one reflects that the Cockney swear word cor ultimately derives from the same vocalic transformation of the same name.)  “Hmm.  It sounds to me as if you are trying to prove not only that educated M-L18thc. educated Britons of yore did not speak RP but also that they did speak early 21st-century General American English.  For surely from ‘Gad’s life: herrre’s Lady Teazle!’ it is an effortless phonological transition to ‘Oh gash, I surrre could go forr a hat dag and a beerrr!’”  Indeed it is, but that hardly proves that I am trying to make the M-L18thc. educated Britons into General Americans avant la lettre.  In yet another first place, most present-day Americans—or at least the better sort of present-day Americans—clearly distinguish between not only the ‘a’ in hat and the ‘a’ in father but also between the ‘a’ in father and the ‘o’ in dog.  Admittedly they often do elide the distinction between the ‘a’ in father and the ‘o’ in God to the point of inaudibility, but they certainly never throw so far forward or flatten so rolling pin-esquely as to pronounce god, dog, and hat with a mutually interchangeable forward-flat ‘a.’  In yet another second place, present-day Americans are almost universally given to dee-ifying their tees (such that Stateside rider and writer are homophones), and I have detected no evidence of such a habit in middle to late eighteenth-century English of any region or register.  What I am really trying to prove, to the extent one can prove such things on the basis of purely written evidence, is that educated people throughout the middle-to-late eighteenth-century Anglosphere spoke a version of English that in phonetic terms would be hard to distinguish from present-day general American English of the ‘God’-‘dog’ discriminating sort but for the presence of a fully articulated, non-dee-ified ‘T,’ and that such vocalic deviations as we early twenty first-century Anglophones take in our stride—e.g., the ‘poonch’ for ‘punch’ substitution on the other side of the Pond and the ‘dahg’ for ‘dog’ substitution on this one—attracted much more, and much more frankly expressed, notice in those days, for the very simple if highly counterintuitive reason that the language was much more nearly uniformly pronounced back then than it is now.  By way of ever-so-tentatively nudging the reader towards an acceptance of the validity of both assertions (i.e., the one about the quasi-Americanness and the one about the greater near uniformity) I unapologetically cite the following lengthy passage from the Life:
Johnson said to me, 'Sir, your pronunciation is not offensive.' With this concession I was pretty well satisfied; and let me give my countrymen of North-Britain an advice not to aim at absolute perfection in this respect; not to speak _High English_, as we
are apt to call what is far removed from the _Scotch_, but which is by
no means _good English_, and makes, 'the fools who use it[471],' truly
ridiculous[472]. Good English is plain, easy, and smooth in the mouth of
an unaffected English Gentleman. A studied and factitious pronunciation,
which requires perpetual attention and imposes perpetual constraint, is
exceedingly disgusting. A small intermixture of provincial peculiarities
may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect, as the notes of different birds
concur in the harmony of the grove, and please more than if they were
all exactly alike. I could name some gentlemen of Ireland, to whom a
slight proportion of the accent and recitative of that country is an
advantage. The same observation will apply to the gentlemen of Scotland.
I do not mean that we should speak as broad as a certain prosperous
member of Parliament from that country[473]; though it has been well
observed, that 'it has been of no small use to him; as it rouses the
attention of the House by its uncommonness; and is equal to tropes and
figures in a good English speaker.' I would give as an instance of what
I mean to recommend to my countrymen, the pronunciation of the late Sir
Gilbert Elliot[474]; and may I presume to add that of the present Earl of
Marchmont[475], who told me, with great good humour, that the master of a
shop in London, where he was not known, said to him, 'I suppose, Sir,
you are an American.' 'Why so, Sir?' (said his Lordship.) 'Because, Sir,
(replied the shopkeeper,) you speak neither English nor Scotch, but
something different from both, which I conclude is the language of
This is a very richly exploitable passage vis-à-vis my every purpose and desire from the most present to the most remote (such that the reader had better get used to my referring to it), but at the moment (i.e., vis-à-vis my most present purposes and desires) I would simply like to focus not unlike a laser on the function of American-ness in it.  The American accent or dialect functions here as a peculiarly paradoxical, or perhaps even oxymoronic, hybrid of a norm and an ideal: like a norm it is posited as being both attainable and worthy of attainment (for Boswell recommends something that is mistaken for it as a pattern of ‘good English’ for his fellow Scotsmen), but like an ideal it is seen as being as-yet-non-unvocalized in the actual, sensible world, at least as far as its principal imaginer–namely Sir Gilbert’s interlocutor the shopkeeper—is concerned.  The shopkeeper is able to conjecture that Sir Gilbert is an American only because he has never heard an actual American speak.  At the same time he must have some idea, some preconception, of an American, and of the way an American speaks, because he instantly gravitates to America as the conjectural provenance of Sir Gilbert’s accent; in other words, he does not for a moment consider the possibility that the knight hails from Ireland or Wales, even though demographics and geography make these much more likely candidates than America for his place of origin.  Presumably in the shopkeeper’s mind Scottish English constitutes some pale or outermost limit (or indeed ultima Thule) of conceivable linguistic eccentricity that the British Isles’ other two main non-English accents-cum-dialects lie well beyond but that American English, for all its geographical non-propinquity, is assumed to lie well within.  Whether Boswell himself thought of the accents of his empirical American contemporaries as lying at such a way station between those of Englishpeople and Scotspeople is of course impossible to determine conclusively from this passage, and as far as I can remember there is no other passage in the Boswellian corpus capable of offering definitive proof in favor of either answer to this question.  But the absence of proof in itself forces conjecture to lean very sharply towards an answer of “Yes.”  For in the course of his especially well-documented albeit not especially long life Boswell did in fact run into and report on his meetings with scads of Americans—mostly wandering clergymen and kinspeople of middling English landowners, with the occasional celebrity like Benjamin Franklin thrown in—and (again as far as I can remember) he never remarked on any peculiarities in the speech of any of these Yanks, as one would expect him to have done if any of them had deviated from the “plain, easy, and smooth” sort of “good English” he inculcated in the Life.  Certainly he was not shy about recording such peculiarities, as we have seen in both Johnson’s case and in the case of the “certain prosperous member of Parliament from” Scotland.
So, to sum up the linguistic state of the middle-to-late eighteenth-century Anglosphere: it was an Anglosphere that was at least prevailingly rhotic or ‘r’-heavy; partially ‘o’-flattening, only spottily ‘oo’ for ‘u’-swapping, and at least intermittently quasi-uniform over and across great swathes of land and sea—an Anglosophere in which, although a man like Johnson who grew up barely a hundred miles from London could occasionally betray which county he came from, a native Scot like Boswell could converse for hours with a native American like Franklin without either of them giving a thought to which country the other fellow came from.  In short, at least by comparison with the early twenty first- century Anglosphere, the middle-to-late eighteenth-century Anglosphere was a linguistic utopia.
“Hang about.  Wasn’t the middle-to-late eighteenth-century Anglosphere also home to a certain Mr. Robert Burns?”
Why, ’pon my soul (by the way, shame on you, no matter what sector of the Anglosphere you hail from, if you pronounce ’pon as a homophone of pawn or porn [cf. God as gored homophone]), yes, I suppose it very much was: Burns was born in Scotland in 1759, a full eight years before the end of the middle eighteenth century, and he died there in 1796, a full five years before the end of the late eighteenth century (and, incidentally, a mere year after the death of James Boswell).  But what, pray tell, is your stinking point, sir?
“My point is that Burns’s poetry is famously (or notoriously) unintelligible to non-Scots without the help of a Scots dictionary and hence a seeming case in counterproof of your idea of the middle-to-late eighteenth-century Anglosphere as more linguistically homogeneous than the Anglosophere of our own day.  I readily acknowledge that the idiolects of Philip Dodd and Tony Soprano are not to all tastes, and I am even willing to go so far as to grant that certain features of their idiolects impede rather than enhance the polite exchange of ideas; but in return I require you to acknowledge that one invariably may get the gist of what these gentlemen (or, as you would term them, ‘rogues’ or ‘scoundrels’) are saying without consulting a lexicon of Northernisms or a Longislandese grammar.”
No sooner Said than Donne: I acknowledge the validity and perhaps even the truth and accuracy of your assertion about the idiolects of Messrs. Dodd and Soprano.  But I still fail to see the import of the greater opacity of the idiolect of Robert Burns to my general view of the middle-to-late eighteenth-century Anglosphere.  After all, a single hopping-mad swallow (or is it supposed to be a sparrow?) doth not a plenary convention of hopping-mad swallows (or sparrows) make.
“Indeed not, but Burns was hardly single (except perhaps in the matrimonial sense) or hopping mad.  He was a very popular poet whose writings at least a very populous minority of the Scotspeople of his day could understand without the help of any kind of dictionary and an equally sizable minority of Englishpeople found (and continue to find) unintelligible.  And if a contemporary and fellow-countryman of Boswell’s could flourish via such un-Englishmanly English, it seems reasonable to suppose that Boswell’s own highly Englishmanly or quasi-American idiolect was either an aberration or an affectation—that either only a very small proportion of Scotspeople grew up talking and writing like him (thanks no doubt to the instruction of Sassenach tutors and schoolmasters) or that Boswell himself did not grow up talking like the Boswell we know from the Life and that when addressing his fellow Scotsmen exclusively he spoke and wrote a good deal more like Burns than like the south-of-the-Tweed Boswell.”
As it happens, I believe on quite demonstrable grounds that you are mistaken, but I must thank you for having most salutarily let a certain cat or elephant or gorilla-suited gentleman out of the bag, cage, or dressing room—I mean (by the elephant autc. not the bag autc.) the very notion of Scottish English (a.k.a. Scots) as a full-fledged dialect or even (according to certain people’s lights) language.  Certainly in Boswell’s time there were lowland Scotspeople (i.e. non-Highlanders), and by no means only uneducated or socially lowly ones, who at least occasionally spoke and wrote entire sentences chock full of lexemes, pronunciations, and grammatical features that defy easy comprehension by present-day non-Scots Anglophones and presumably defied easy comprehension by non-Scots Anglophones of the middle-to-late eighteenth century.  Such sentences turn up not infrequently in those portions of Boswell’s journals written during his generally lengthy periods of residence in his native land—though they almost or perhaps even absolutely never appear in passages in which Boswell is writing in his own voice.  Perhaps more often than in any other context they appear in the reported speech of Boswell’s interlocutors—for example, his father, Alexander Boswell, a.k.a. Lord Auchinleck.  To judge by Lord Auchinleck’s recorded conversation, one would think he was a kind of professional Alex Salmond or Billy Connolly impersonator—he cannot seem to speak two non Scots-branded words of English in succession.  And yet in his written English he betrays not the weeest soupcon of his north-of-the-Tweed origins; for example, he begins a letter to James thus: “I have received yours from Parma, which surprised me greatly, for I expected you had got to Paris, and would be home directly, and never imagined that you would have been returning to places where you had formerly been” (p. Grand Tour Italy journal, p. 213).  This is a sentence that Lord Chesterfield himself would not have blushed to own—at least not qua Englishman qua non-Scottish Anglophone.  Naturally one expects there to be a certain discrepancy between the way a person talks and the way he or she writes, but this oroscriptural gulf really takes the shortbread.  So how may one account for it?  Certainly here one may not in a strict sense refer to a difference in register—the linguistic distinction that, for example, in certain languages requires one to use varying words for ‘you’ depending on whom one is addressing; and in the present version of ours requires us to address some people by their first name and others by a title followed by their last name--for in both sets of cases, Lord Auchinleck is addressing the same person, his son, whom he can get away with treating as familiarly as he sees fit.  I think one may best describe Lord Auchinleck’s choice between the two linguistic classes as customized or situational: he seems particularly partial to heavy Scots in moments in which he is admonishing James--reminding him of his filial duty, adjuring him to be more fiscally responsible, mocking his matrimonial choice (i.e. his impecunious first cousin Margaret), upbraiding him for what a horrible hash he has made of his career as a practicing defense lawyer, etc.—and more particularly admonishing him in person.  And why should the in-person-ness make a difference?  Perhaps merely because the spellings of the Scotticisms were unstandardized, or at any rate, less standardized than most English words, and therefore would have required the writer to choose his own spellings, which, in their inevitable idiosyncrasy, would inevitably have looked strange or ridiculous to the reader.  So perhaps in a strict sense (to the extent that neologisms can have a strict sense) Lord Auchinleck’s Scotticisms were hyper-colloquialisms, linguistic elements that in virtue of their literal unwritability may be employed to signal to one’s interlocutor that one is acting with an especially small amount of restraint and hence is not unlikely to do something rash—for example, cut off his allowance or even disinherit him.
“This is all very plausible (or ‘specious,’ as Dr. Johnson would say), and yet it smacks rather gamily of question-begging.  For you haven’t yet explained why Lord Aucinleck for his hyper-colloquialisms chose linguistic elements that happened to coincide with certain ones that pullulate in the writings of Robert Burns.  Presumably if unwritability was the principal exigent qualification for a hyper-colloquialism, he could just as easily have strung together words and grammatical features of his own invention, as thus: Ale be big-big geflisted fo a take im na the filly fingchop for a porchwoop like E.U.  Surely you must grant that these hyper-colloquialisms had some material basis in a way of speaking that was widespread in Scotland and that came naturally to Lord Auchinleck in particular.”
Surely I must and do, but I must not and will not grant that “widespread” and “natural” in this case should either be interchangeable with or entail “habitual” or “preferred.”  Lord Auchinleck’s hyper-colloquialisms doubtlessly hailed from a linguistic stock of ancient personal date, from a trove of expressions he had picked up as the weest of wee bairns, but we have no reason to assume they formed part of a comprehensive and distinctively Scots linguistic sub-language that little Alexander himself ever spoke himself or even ever heard another Scotsperson speak.
“What, not even some faithful family servant, a wet nurse, say, or groundskeeper, who dandled him on his or her knee and told him scary folk-stories about the ghost of, erm [a.k.a., in Americanese, uhm], that guy played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart?”
No, not even, or at least not necessarily even, such a faithful family servant.  I really do think it entirely possible that as a functioning, free-standing dialect, Scottish English was by Boswell’s father’s time as effectively moribund throughout all strata of lowlands society as, say, the old-style non-rhotic southern accent is in present-day non-former-Soviet Georgia.  It is really almost impossible now to catch any native Georgian under the age of ninety pronouncing poor as poo-wah or mature as mah-too-wah in casual quotidian speech; our former president Carter is perhaps one of only hundreds of living organic “arr”-dropping Deep Southerners.  On the other hand, it is dimes to chicken gizzards that whenever the average Georgian so-called NASCAR dad has cause to lecture his son for having neglected to take out the trash (a.k.a., in Britishese, rubbish or bin-liners) he immediately transmogrifies into a kind of super-profane Foghorn Leghorn (“Take ah say ah say take ah say take this mothahfuckin’ treye-ish keye-in out bowahh, foah ah tie-in yoah mothahfuckin’ hahd a.ka., yoah vuhginal lilywhaht eye-iss”).  On the third (or back to the first) hand, in all his quiescent moments this average Georgian so-called NASCAR dad sounds phonologically interchangeable with his fellow Peach Tree-Staters as Stephen Colbert and Julia Roberts—in other words, exactly like the average Pittsburghian NHL dad or Phoenician MLB mom.  And it is this phonetic interchangeability with the Yankees and Westerners that is his prevailing linguistic habitus.  The vestiges of his Deep Southern-dialectal heritage prevent him from cracking up when haranguing in the character of a super-profane Foghorn Leghorn: that is the extent of their material contribution to this habitus.  Likewise Alexander Boswell’s Scots heritage contributed to his linguistic habitus only in preventing him from cracking up when haranguing as if in the character of a less profane Billy Connolly or Alex Salmond.  In his quiescent moments Lord Auchinleck probably sounded not much more Scottish than the aforementioned Lord Chesterfield, and possibly even less than the aforementioned Sir Gilbert Elliot.
“I somehow cannot manage to relax my jawhold on this bone that is Robert Burns.  If the Scots dialect was really as moribund as you say it was in Alexander Boswell’s day, a poet like Burns could not have been as wildly successful as he was in James Boswell’s day—nor, incidentally, it seems to me, could Billy Connolly and Alex Salmond have been as successful as they were (and still are) in your-cum-my day.”
So indeed it would seem.  But it would also seem that no peri-linguistic phenomenon, no matter how irrational or unhelpful, is impossible on this latter side of the Ossianic divide on and in which we—the mature Burns, the older James Boswell, Billy Connolly, Alex Salmond, and you and I and all other Anglophones—have dwelt for a good twelvescore years and counting.
“So I take it we have at long last come to the ‘principal melody’ that is your discussion of the Ossian foist.”
Aye, aye (not to be confused with the strictly nautical “ayeaye”), that we have, laddie (or lassie [not to be confused with the strictly canine Lassie]).  And I gots to admit that weary as I am of writing those niggling little accompanying bits for the viola and second violin, I am none too eagerly looking forward to composing the big soaring virtuosic first fiddler’s line—not because I expect the setting forth of the argumental strand proper to be especially difficult (for indeed, though I may yet be proved wrong, I expect it to be a good deal easier than the setting forth of the argumental strands associated with the inner voices), but because when taking on any phenomenon of such combined obscurity and world-historical import as the Ossian foist one inevitably feels a certain obligation to recount the whole bl***y history of the thing ab ovo, and thereby become involved (and perhaps even bogged down) in a task that is at once time-consuming and very probably gratuitous.
“I.e, because the reader could no less conveniently get the same ab ovo history from the pertinent Wikipedia page?”
Yes, essentially, although one flatters oneself that it would be a more engaging read than that page.
“So why not simply post a link to that page and then go on to say your extra two cents’ worth about the phenomenon in question?”
(Flying into a passion): Two cents’ worth, Sir?  Two cents’ worth?  I should think I should be good for at minimum an extra ten cents on any subject or topick on which I elected to hold forth.
“I beg your pardon, Sir.  Suppose, then, your alienable contribution to the so-called literature on the subject amount (sic) to a full(y)-fledged plum—i.e. a hundred thousand pounds, as your so-called batting average leads me to expect it to do—”
You’re pressing your luck, little man.
(Flying into a little man-sized passion): “Suppose your alienable contribution amount to whatever s*d*ingly piddling or inestimable sum it amount to—why not postfix it to a link to the pertinent Wikipedia page?”
Because I would then be comporting myself in a manner analogous to and consubstantial with that fleetingly and foolishly adopted by Patrick Troughton’s Doctor (Who) in the 1968 serial The Mind Robber, when, in order to get himself out of a scrape with a baddie from the canon of classic children’s literature he begins writing a scenario in which he (the Doctor) escapes from the villain’s clutches. Luckily he breaks off just before finishing the inditement of his [the Doctor’s] own name.  If the Doctor had gotten to the point of saying ‘The Doctor picked up a sword and slew the baddie,” he would have been transformed into a fictional character himself, condemned endlessly to repeat the words and gestures recorded in his own autobiographical fairy tale.  Physically speaking, the inevitability of this transformation is of course inexplicable, but in metaphysical and moral terms it makes perfect and obvious sense: if you stoop to attempting to make use of the tools native to a lower ontological plane to hoist yourself clear of that lower plane then you deserve to attain the antithesis of your aim, i.e., to be demoted to that lower plane; for what are you effectively saying in thus stooping if not “This lower and worse realm is actually better and more real than I am”?  The moment I embark on the composition of an argumentative essay, I nail my colors to the explicitly didactic, professorial mast: I commit myself to providing a comprehensive account of my subject in my own voice and as guaranteed by my store of knowledge and experience as it stands at the moment of embarkation.  If I start nipping out of the essay every time I suspect that someone has afforded more or less the same scraps of enlightenment elsewhere, well then I am no better than a professor who runs a video of a television lecture course and takes a nap, awaking only in the last five minutes of the period to point out the teleprof’s apparently very few and very slight errors and omissions.  And yet again, one’s not-unjustifiable pride as a would-be autonomous subject precludes one’s blithely rattling off the Wikipediesque ab-oval particulars as if no such thing as Wikipedia existed, for this is bound to instill in one the uncanny or spooky sense that one’s subjectivity is as Schopenhauer says of the bodies of humans, animals, and vegetables half dead, that it must regurgitate and ruminate for hours on end before it can even get around to adding its own two—erm, ten—cents’ worth.  So, in short, it’s a right hartknäckig poser (but not in the 1990s skatepunkish sense of the word, according to which it is effectively interchangeable with the Gallicism poseur), this business of how to deal discursively with such an obscure-cum-world historically significant phenomenon as the Ossian foist.
“I can think of one way you might at least initially deal with it that would be both non-Wikipedia replicating and enlightening to the selectively eighteenth century-ignorant likes of me.”
And what, pray tell, is that, laddie?
“Why, nothing less column-inch Hoovering than your tendering of an justification for your adducing a foist centering on an alleged translation from the Scottish Gaelic, a language no more closely related to English than Greek or Lithuanian, as the strategic linchpin of an essay centered on Anglophone grammar and usage.  You see, it would have made perfect sense to me if the Ossian foist had led to some sort of Scottish Gaelic boom; if, say, within a generation of the publication of Fingal the population of Gaelic speakers in Scotland had doubled and in place of Burns some living Scottish Highland poet writing in Gaelic had risen to international fame.  What actually happened within that twenty to twenty-five year stretch was of course that the population of Gaelic-speaking Scots continued to shrink, and that a Lowland Scotsman ended up as the poster boy of Scotland.”
I admit the whole cursus seems a trifle paradoxical and perforce implex (a Johsnonian synonym of involved and complex), but as promised it is really all fundamentally upchalkable to our old friend geographical hypernaivety qua engine of exchange-value worship.
“So far I’m only spotting—that’s only spotting, mind you, not grasping the import of—some sort of parallel between Scotland and Plymouth.”
Well-spotted.  And to elaborate the parallel: in this case the Scottish highlands correspond to old-town Plymouth and the Scottish lowlands correspond to new-town Plymouth, the domain of the so-called dockers.
“So then, to elaborate the parallel further: the highlanders were eaten away by envy of the lowlanders and refused to…I dunno…let them have any copies of the latest reprint of Fingal?  That doesn’t sound right.”
That’s because it isn’t.  You see, in this case it was the new-town analogues, the dockeresque pole of the socio-geographical continuum, who wanted to associate themselves with the old-town analogues, and not vice-versa.
“So then what did the analogues to the old-towners, the Highlanders, want to do in this case?”
On the whole nothing, because those of them who spoke Gaelic—or Earse, as Johnson called it and as I am about to start calling it for smoothness of reference’s sake—by and large could not read, and those of them who could read tended to speak English exclusively, either out of necessity (owing to their ignorance of Earse) or by preference.  Fingal, after all, was a book, and it could have touched off an industrial boom in Earse poetry only if the Highlands had been teeming with people who could not only speak but also write Earse and thereby produce publishable follow-ups to “Ossian”’s magnum opus.  The lowlands, on the other hand, were teeming with people who could read and write and were eager to produce—or patronize—a follow-up to Fingal.  The erroneous but provisionally unfalsifiable idea that Scotland had finally come up with something that no Englishman could replicate—namely a literary corpus composed in a language other than English (even if it was so far known only in English)—put pound signs in the eyes of thousands of would-be entrepreneurs all along the Glasgow-Edinburgh corridor.  Unfortunately for their own sakes, not one among these thousands could so much as ask for directions to the nearest chamber-pot in Earse.  And so they had to invent a Lowlands quasi-non-English vernacular virtually from scratch: they had to take their wee handful of hyper-colloquialisms, of moribund Foghorn Leghorn-like expressions, and work them into the tissue of ordinary English in the hope that they would germinate and pullulate within it and eventually yield something that at least to untutored and inattentive eyes (the only eyes that ever matter in the propagation of a literary trend) looked scarcely like English at all.
“And the end product of twenty or so years of such experimental linguistic agronomy was the poetry of Robert Burns.”
Exactly—and beyond that a Scots population who by and large tried to talk the way Robert Burns wrote, and thereby gave us the Scottish accent that we know today thanks to Billy Connolly and Alex Salmond (not to mention Frazer Hines, Scrooge McDuck, et multa alia).
“I see.  And what do you propose to do with the Boswellian-Johnsonian corpus in connection with this prima facie rather contentious linguistic genealogy?  I don’t suppose it can simply be a matter of interlarding the genealogy as it stands with a few quotations from the Life and the two Hebredian travel journals, for I don’t suppose either Boswell or Johnson happened to be fortunate enough to sit in on the initial public offering of the Lowlands Poetry Manufacturing Corporation, or to singe their hands on the firm’s inaugural product, The Retroactively Collected Poems of Robert Burns, as it rolled off the assembly line.”
No, of course not, not even in a figurative sense, because Johnson died a year or two before Burns first published his first book, and Boswell, although he knew many people who also knew Burns, seems never to have met him and may never even have heard of him, and in any case his own Hebredian journal was written (albeit not published) even earlier than Johnson’s.  And in any case again, it is not Burns himself or as such that is in point here.  What is in point here is a more general vectored tendency in the Anglosphere to fetishize factitiously folky, local, and oral utterances and statements at the unwarranted expense of commodiously (if hardly “natural) learned, global (or at least international), and written ones, a tendency of which Burns merely constitutes the second of a milliard or more Tube station-like delineating points.  And Johnson’s and Boswell’s Hebridean journals (along with certain sequelae thereof in the Life) are useful and probably even indispensable to an understanding of this tendency in having been “present at its creation” or birth and registered its earliest (and therefore most dramatic and salient) post parturitional convulsions, partly via both a kind of sharply –contoured linguistic-anthropological snapshot of the Highlands of their day (or to be more notionally if not literally precise, their year, viz. 1773), and a sort of fuzzily contoured (but for all that quite enlightening) linguistic-sociological impressionistic portrait-painting of the Lowlands at the same time plus or minus one-to-five years.  The snapshot demonstrates to us the remarkable extent to which standard London-style English had taken hold even in the most thinly populated parts of nominally non-Anglophone Scotland, along with the puniness of the Earse language’s literary achievements and the rapidity with which the Earse language was falling into total desuetude from sheer indifference.  The portrait-painting demonstrates to us the remarkable extent to which the Lowlanders were willing to ignore both the scantiness of Earse itself and the laziness of the Earse-speaking population for the sake of their (the Lowlanders’) self-commodification as Scotsmen.
First to the snapshot: it emerges against the backdrop of Johnson’s (and to a lesser extent) Boswell’s expectations in setting out on their Highland-cum-Hebridean jaunt.  They had headed north and west in the hope of seeing “a people of peculiar appearance, and a system of antiquated life,” specifically a system that combined a quasi-feudal social order, a social order in which loyalty to one’s clan chief trumped all obligations to any central governmental power, with a lack of modern conveniences.  Of the lack of modern conveniences they encountered a fair number of striking (and off-putting) attestations—one-story huts with earth (sometimes none too dry earth) floors and mere holes in the ceiling instead of chimneys, barefoot children, villagers swarming round newcomers for handouts of tobacco and wheat bread, etc.  But of the quasi-feudal social order there were scant traces, owing to various recriminations and reforms instituted by the Hanoverian monarchy in the wake of the abortive (but genuinely menacing) 1745 Jacobite rebellion, a rebellion to which the Highlanders had provided the bulk of the military manpower (Down!  Down!  Thou inadvertent channeler of Wikipedage).  As near as Johnson could tell, within barely a generation, the chieftans had been transformed from veritable kings into common garden variety landlords to whom their subaltern kinsmen felt they owed nothing more than rent for the use of their land.  “Such,” commented Johnson semi-ruefully, “is the effect of the late regulations, that a longer journey than to the Highlands must be taken by him whose curiosity pants for savage virtues and barbarous grandeur.”  It was in a similar tone of mingled regret and surprised admiration that Johnson observed a remarkably widespread fluency in English among the Highlanders and Hebrideans, a fluency that was by no means confined to such affluent and high-ranking examples of them (e.g., Alexander Macdonald, the first of Boswell’s and Johnson’s hosts in the Hebrides) as had enjoyed the educational benefit of repeated sojourns in London.  Johnson was impressed in particular by the “propriety” of the English of one Macqueen, an inhabitant of Anoch, a tiny dorflet of three huts sited about fifty miles between Fort Augustus, the Highlands’ sole military outpost and bastion of royal administration, and the next village, Auknasheals (a comparative metropolis at twenty-huts strong).  When he dared to compliment Macqueen on his diction, the Anochian hut-owner surlily rejoined that Johnson “need not wonder, for he had learned it by grammar.”  From his encounter with Macqueen and other outlying Scottish Anglophones, Johnson approvingly concluded that “[t]hose Highlanders that can speak English, commonly speak it well.”  By those Highlanders who could not speak English he was generally less impressed.  What seemed to irritate him most about them was an approach to matters of fact that was at once guileful and willfully amnesiac: they habitually lied, and yet they lacked the craft or ingenuity to get their stories straight, to tell lies that reinforced rather than contradicted each other.  On one occasion Johnson was told by a non-Anglophone Highlander (presumably via a bilingual interpreter) that every Highlander made his own shoes--specifically brogues (although the brogues described in Johnson’s journal sound more like flip-flops than like the heavy-duty a(*)s(*)-kicking ones of today); on another, that brogue-making was a proper trade, like ordinary shoemaking.  “It will easily occur,” says Johnson
“that these representations may both be true, and that, in some places,
men may buy them, and in others, make them for themselves;  but,” he wryly adds, “I had both the accounts in the same house within two days.”  These are harsh words indeed, and yet it would be wrong to interpret them in a judgmental light, for at bottom Johnson did not regard the Highlanders’ combination of duplicity and muddle-headedness as some sort of collective, subnation-wide moral-cum-intellectual defect; rather, he believed that it sprang from their geographically and historically contingent discursive confinement in a language that had never known any sustained or widespread existence in writing:  “If individuals are thus at variance with themselves, it can be no wonder that the accounts of different men are contradictory.  The traditions of an ignorant and savage people have been for ages negligently heard, and unskilfully related.  Distant events must have been mingled together, and the actions of one man given to another.  These, however, are deficiencies in story, for which no man is now to be censured.”  For Johnson it was not so much that the Highlanders took pleasure in lying about brogue-making etc. as that they had never acquired the habit of being truthful, a habit that could have been inculcated only in face of the continuous threat of being disproved, or at minimum contradicted, by written statements about brogue-making etc.  Another significant epiphenomenon of this imperviousness to written fact-checking, in Johnson’s view, was the infeasibility of any Earse literary work of substantial length.  To be sure, the Highlanders had always had oral poets, so-called bards, but “how high their compositions may reasonably be rated, an inquirer may best judge by considering what stores of imagery, what principles of ratiocination, what comprehension of knowledge, and what delicacy of elocution he has known any man attain who cannot read. [...] In an unwritten speech, nothing that is not very short is transmitted from one generation to another.  Few have opportunities of hearing a long composition often enough to learn it, or have inclination to repeat it so often as is necessary to retain it; and what is once forgotten is lost for ever.  I believe there cannot be recovered, in the whole Earse language, five hundred lines of which there is any evidence to prove them a hundred years old.”  “Ossian’”s Fingal, of course, was an epic poem of many thousands of lines in length, and its magnitude alone sufficed to lead Johnson to infer that it “never existed in any other form than that which we have seen,” in other words, in the form of a succession of verses in English.
“I have no wish to pooh-pooh Dr. Johnson’s conclusions about Ossian specifically, as I gather that history--.”
--meaning, I suppose, Wikipedia?--
“ –among many other equally or more creditable sources, has borne out those conclusions.  And yet I must say that I am surprised and disappointed to find so accomplished a Classical scholar as Samuel Johnson pooh-poohing the capabilities of oral literary composition in general.”
Why should his erudition as a student of antient Greek and Roman literature have any bearing on his pooh-poohing?
“Why, because the very twin centerpieces and wellsprings of the Greco-Roman canon are two poems forged from soup to nuts (apologies for the metaphorical trail mix) in the smithy of oral literary composition—to wit, the Iliad and the Odyssey.”
I perceive, Sir, that you or those known to you have discovered either the secret of time travel or some archeological trove of audio recordings of ninth century-B.C. hellenephone poets reciting their works.  Well, what can I say: in the approximate words of Bob Newhart’s version of Wernher von Braun, it’s been a few days since I last saw a newspaper.
“I’m afraid I’m not following you.”
What I just mean to have said is: what, in the absence of actual oral/aural evidence, is leading you to infer that the Iliad and the Odyssey ever existed as anything but written texts?
“Well, it’s just common knowledge…”
…Common knowledge derived from what or whom? Essentially, there is no reason for supposing that Homer—and just because we know nothing about him there is no reason to assume he was not an actual single bloke working entirely on his lonesome–did not forge (in the bad sense) the whole of the Iliad and the Odyssey out of whole cloth (apologies for the metaphorical motley) in his one-man fake-signature factory, exactly after (or in prolepsis of) the manner in which Macpherson forged his Fingal.  (It sounds like some horrible off-color kenning from a limerick, doesn’t it—forged his “Fingal”?)
“B-b-b-ut what about the Greek myths?  What about Schliemann’s discovery of an actual, empirical Troy?  What, for fudge’s sake, about the umpteen thousand different versions of Aesop’s fables?”
What about them?  What do(es) any of them prove?
“Why, Sir, they prove beyond a doubt’s hombre that illiterate people(s) are capable of transmitting vast amounts of knowledge from generation to generation and indeed century to century.”
This is like saying the shifting of sand-dunes on the seashore over generations and centuries proves that multistory sandcastles can come into being entirely as a result of natural processes.  It is hardly miraculous that some knowledge of the bare existence of Troy survived the passage of time without the benefit of books, but that knowledge forms but a tiny fragment—a kilobyte out of several megabytes, if you will—of The Iliad and The Odyssey.  And the same goes for the Greek myths’ contribution thereunto.  As for Aesop’s fables, well in the first place one must remember that they are all very short, and in the second place that they were contrived in a language that already had a standard written form and indeed an established literary tradition, and as Johnson reminds us, in a linguistic community with such a tradition, “[h]e that cannot read, may…converse with those that can,” and thereby benefit from their fact-checking resources.  (This is probably the most propitious, if hardly an ideal, place for mentioning that although Milton by the time of the composition of Paradise Lost was blind and hence no longer able to read on his own, he could have any text he wished—including his own verses–read out to him on demand by his daughters, whom he treated virtually as slaves.)  What is ultimately in point-cum-at stake here, as so often in my polemics, is the quality that E.T.A. Hoffmann termed Besonnenheit, and that I have come to think of in English as ‘presence of mind’—the ability of a given mind to be immanently, demonstrably present—meaning self-consistent--in a work of any sort over long stretches (of space and time, neither dimension being escapable during either the execution or the appreciation of any time-or-space devouring achievement, be it a quasi-static one like a painting, a building, or a sculpture or a quasi-dynamic one like an epic, a movie, or indeed a long essay).  The Iliad and the Odyssey both evince this quality, and Johnson implies that they evince it only because however heavily they may have drawn on an oral tradition, they were ultimately realized only in writing.  (We know from the preface to his edition of Shakespeare that Johnson thought of Homer as the greatest of all non-sacred narrative-cum-dramatic writers, that he regarded all of Western narrative and dramatic literature—with the equivocally possible exception of WS himself--as merely a copy of [or in Whiteheadian terms “footnote to”] Homer.  It therefore follows that since according to Johnson the illiterate Earse-speakers could not produce an epic poem of any sort, let alone a great one, Johnson must have believed that an illiterate Homer could not have produced the Iliad or the Odyssey.)  To our—or at any rate, your—twenty-first century minds the gulf of feasibility separating the composition of a clerihew or haiku by ear and an epic or novel by ear is trivial and even unintelligible, and we are as reflexively inclined to fellate the genuine oral clerihew-maker or haikusmith as we are the fraudulent oral novelist or epic poet.  This is partly owing to the fact that we are the heirs of the original non-Scottish Anglophone readers of Ossian (who swallowed the Ossian foist HL&S out of pity for their water-closetless fellow Britons north of the Tweed), for whom there is never any want of propinquitous supposed less-fortunates on the supposedly wrong side of the tracks; and partly owing to the atrophying of our wills and our memories, which has put us out of touch with the extent of these two faculties’ capacities and limits.  For you see, Johnson.’s pooh-poohing of the Ossianites by no means issued from a lack of regard for or proficiency in extra-literate verbal skills; to the contrary, for few men at his own or any other time had greater command over their un book-aided memory, or called upon its assistance more often or at greater length.  Scarcely a page of the Life recording a personal interview with Johnson is bereft of an off-the-cuff quotation pulled in by the Great Cham as an impeccable mot juste for the matter at hand.   Scarcely an installment of the Rambler or the Idler is bereft of a couplet, quatrain, or paragraph of a classical or modern author quoted from memory (one can tell such passages have been quoted from memory because their occasional inaccuracies are most often of a kind—namely, synonymous substitution--that never occurs when one is copying from a book).  And on being asked by Boswell, who was ever mindful of his duties as the sage’s future biographer, for copies of his two most celebrated epistolary compositions, the one telling Lord Chesterfield to get stuffed for having not financed the Dictionary and the one telling James Macpherson to get stuffed for expressing resentment at having been shown up as a fraud, Johnson found it more convenient simply to recite the letters in full to him.  These were all remarkable feats of bookless memory, but they were all parasitic on written texts.  Johnson knew that the mind is capable of retaining enormous (albeit not epic-length) concatenations of verbiage, but he also knew that it can reliably acquire and retain those concatenations only from written sources.  Chez the Johnsonian worldview-cum-habitus, the written text is an indispensable aid to memory; it is a kind of street map-cum-looking glass by referencing which the mind can see where it has been and where it is going, test its accuracy, and correct its errors.  Only once the recitation has been rendered word perfect can the letter be refilled book or the book reshelved.  The purportedly educated twenty-first century Anglophone does not appreciate the mnemonic indispensability of writing because he has never tried or been forced to memorize anything longer than a street name or telephone number.  With lower jaw grazing upper breastbone he marvels at the mozzarella ball-brained pop singer-guitarist or so-called bluesman endlessly cycling through his half-dozen lines of chanted doggerel and quarter-dozen tablature chords, thinking all the while that he is in the presence of some latter-day Shakespeare-cum—Beethoven who has miraculously managed to compose Hamlet and the Ninth Symphony simultaneously and entirely by ear!  In actual fact, of course, the mnemonic powers of the pop singer-guitarist and so-called bluesman are dust-mited by those of the classically trained musician, the opera singer or piano soloist or chamber string player--or even the player of the least pyrotechnical, the least note-intensive of orchestral instruments: the double-bass, say, or the tuba--who is routinely called upon to perform several successive hours of un-repeating music from memory.  But he has learned to play it from memory only by studying a lengthy static notated document, the score, or score-part, or score-cum -libretto.
Something nearly too much of this.  Before I leave off discussing the Ossian foist, though, I would do well to caulk up a certain epistemological gap—namely the gap between Ossian and Burns—by remarking that it was specifically the brevity of Burns’s poems that recommended them to the Caledonian pseudo-oral-poetry industry, which would never have exceeded cottage-sized dimensions, and indeed would have fizzled out entirely by ca. 1790, if it had had to continue to stake all its hopes on a Scottish Homer.  A Scottish Stephen Duck like Burns fitted the bill, so to speak, of this industry’s requirements, in composing wee two or three score-line ditties that could plausibly be described either as the spontaneous prosodic sallies of an aboriginal genius or as the verbatim transcriptions of the Scottish Volk’s collectively penned oral prosodic masterpieces.   The great ugly secret of all so-called artistic endeavors in the rightly called modern age is that in simply uninhibitedly expressing oneself one inevitably produces something that is almost entirely indistinguishable from something already extant.  When exhibited by, say, a novelist, such mimeography is termed plagiarism, but when exhibited by a so-called balladeer or so-called bluesman it is regarded as mere participation in the great oral tradition.  But I digress.  Well, so much for the Ossian foist, and now on to my peroration.
“Hang about.  Aren’t you forgetting something, as they say?  You have given me your exposition of the B&J corpus’s ‘linguistic anthropological snapshot’ of the Highlanders and grounded this exposition in evidence from B&J’s travel writings—or at least from the Johnsonian half thereof.  And yet your treatment of the ‘linguistic portrait painting’ of the Lowlanders has consisted for the most part—a most part that very much includes the preceding paragraph--in bare and unsubstantiated iterations of your first assertion about it.  What gives?”
What gives is that the B&J corpus’s most vivid illustrations of the Lowlanders’ upsweepment into the Ossian craze are furnished by Boswell’s own behavior within the corpus, and inasmuch as I very much consider myself a booster of Boswell, I am loath to present him in anything remotely approaching an irredeemably foolish light.  In the course of expounding on the snapshot I was fondly hoping when I got to my excursus on the portrait to skirt Bozzie’s complicity in Fingalmania and to cull my banana-skin slipping clips from B&J’s descriptions of the behavior of other Lowlanders.  But the truth is—or, rather, has turned out to be, or rather re-seem, in being something whose empirical substrate I have long been acquainted with—that the B&JC’s account of the extra-Boswellian Lowlandian Ossian craze amounts to a catalogue of names—Hugh Blair, Elibank, Tytler, etc.--that on its own has an arid “so what”-provoking non-aura that reminds one of Thomas Browne’s remark on the surviving names of Hippocrates’s patients, to the effect that one might as well not be known to posterity at all as known to it only by one’s name; and that acquires its afore-vaunted painterliness only in the light of Boswell’s all-too-mildly unsympathetic attitude to the Ossian-boosting cause.  Throughout the Hebredian Journal and Life, thanks to a series of hints not too divergent in spirit or character from those in Johnson’s Journey that led George III to conclude that SJ was a “papist and a Jacobite” [the Jacobite and popish side of Johnson is the topic of a separate essay that may never be written thanks to the fairground-worthy optical calisthenics required to bring this side’s present-day toss donation-worthiness into view {although the failure of a squiggly red line to appear under “popish” just now (and nower) suggests that I may have exaggerated the optical complexity}], one gets the vague but decidedly firm impression that Boswell was a closet Ossian booster.  To be sure, when conversing with Johnson viva voce—and perhaps as much as three-fifths of both the Hebridian journal and the Life consists of such viva-voce conversations—he never dares directly to challenge the sage in the matter of Fingal, to lay his Ossianic hand of brag, faro, or whist on the table and exclaim, “Sir, we obviously are not of one mind on this topick.  I am certain—or would like to believe that I am certain—that Mr. Macpherson’s Fingal is in large part a translation of the authentick effusions of a Highland bard who could not only speak but also read and write in the Earse language.”  In Johnson’s presence he at most dares to assume the character of an anti-Ossianism sceptic—a man or woman who is loath out of hand to dismiss Fingal in its entirety as a forgery.  So, for instance, on 23, September  1773, he announces to Johnson that “Mr. Macqueen [a Highland clergyman of their recently made acquaintance] had repeated a passage pretty like [i.e., declaimed some verses in Earse that when translated turned out not to differ outrageously from a supposedly corresponding passage in Macpherson’s poem], and that he himself  [i.e., Johnson] had required Macpherson’s Ossian to be no liker than Pope’s [notoriously licentious translation of] Homer.”  So far Boswell seems to be swinging unreservedly for Ossian qua full-fledged Highland Homer.  But no sooner has Johnson put up the feeblest (and, que l’esprit du grand Cham me pardonne!, it is quite feeble indeed) defense of his own anti-Ossianic view, than Bozzie makes a beeline back to the Johnsonian fold (or hive).  “Well,” said Johnson of Macqueen’s performance, according to Boswell, “this is just what I always said.  He has found names, and stories—nay passages in old songs—and with them has compounded his own compositions, and so made them what he gives to the world as the translation of an ancient poem” (Boswell, Hebrides, Yale Edition, 23 September 1773, p. 206).  This is, as I just said, quite a weak defense in that Pope’s translation of Homer, for all its licentiousness, is very like Homer indeed, because derived line-by-line from the actual Iliad and Odyssey, however indirectly (i.e., via earlier translations); such that any more-than-limerick-lengthed passage of certifiably pre-Fingalian Earse that corresponded as closely to Fingal as Pope’s Iliad or Odyssey does to Homer’s would have counted as a strong and even possibly decisive piece of evidence in favor of both the empirical existence of Ossian qua bona fide Scottish Homer and the authenticity of Fingal.  I say would have because given that Boswell himself was totally ignorant of Earse Macqueen could have said anything he liked and passed it off as a parallel passage to Fingal, provided his interpreter was in on the scam.   As Johnson well knew that Boswell did not understand Earse, the most obvious riposte for him to make to B.’s assertion of Macqueen’s purported translation’s “pretty-likeness” would have been, “How do you know it was pretty like, Sir?” (This was in fact exactly the approach he would later [on November 10] take to the credulity in Ossian of another Lowlander, Alexander Fraser Tytler.)  Extending a very generous line of credit to SJ’s understanding as I always do, I like to think that this riposte did not elude him, and that he refrained from making it merely out of politic kindness to his and Boswell’s unanimously Ossian-boosting hosts.  (We are informed at the end of this episode that Macqueen stood “patiently by all the while” they were talking about him, and thereby incidentally violating one of Johnson’s cardinal rules of etiquette: “Never mention a man in his own presence.”)  In any case, Boswell gives no sign to Johnson that he is not completely of one mind with him here, even going so far as to finish his part for him: to the passage quoted above, the one ending with “…he gives to the world as the translation of an ancient poem,” Boswell immediately rejoins “But…it was wrong in him to pretend that there was a poem in six books.”  Moreover, he refrains from appending to his account of the episode any sort of retrospective retraction or qualification that would justify a presumption that he was being anything less than forthcoming with Johnson about Ossian on the occasion.  The topic “resolves itself of its own momentum,” as George Costanza would say, and they move on to discussing David Garrick’s surprising ineptitude as a witness in a court case.  But by the time Boswell gets to the point of recounting the tour’s second big showdown over Ossian, between Johnson and Lord Elibank in Edinburgh (Boswell, Hebrides, Yale Edition, 23 September 1773, pp. 379-381), he cannot resist interpolating a disclaimer in a footnote: “I desire,” he sniffs therein with diabolically understated huffishness, “not to be understood as agreeing entirely with the opinions of Dr. Johnson, which I relate without any remark.”  Och, one is tempted to rejoin, in the character of the ghost of Lord Auchinleck, and what d’ye think this wee annotation is, laddie, if not a remark, and a none too canty one at that?  But this animadversion via silence is trumped in point of censoriousness (a million sorries [or sorrys {both spellings get the red squiggle}?] for the elegant variation, but I don’t think ‘animadversiveness’ is recognized as a word by the OED [not that I can afford to check!]) by the remark with which he sees fit to inaugurate a paragraph of ostentatiously ostensibly impatient leave-taking of the entire Fingalian controversy for the duration of the Journal of a Tour: “I do not think it incumbent on me to give any precise opinion upon this question, as to which I believe more than some, and less than others.”  Mark the fellow’s diab—erm, Mephistophelean shiftiness here. He starts out by pleading the fifth, as we Yanks say nowadays, by professing to withhold his opinion completely, in doing which he leaves open the possibility (among many others, to be sure) that he thinks that Fingal is one big pile of 100 percent-inorganic Lowlander-composed synthetic cow doo from beginning to end.  He is not going to tell us a single cotton-picking thing about what he thinks of Fingal.  On Ossianick matters his lips, like those of Belinda Carlisle and company, are purportedly sealed.  But then, using the word question as a pivot-point, he does a notional about face, for what, after all, does it mean to have a belief as to a question if not to have an opinion upon it?  He believes, he says, more than some, and less than others; ergo in his opinion Fingal is more authentic than those who think it least authentic say it is, and less authentic than those who think it most authentic say it is.  The two extremes between which this moreness-cum-lessness must be situated are easy to define in particularized and personal terms: nobody in the world was more dismissive of Fingal than Johnson, and nobody in the world was (ostensibly) more persuaded of its authenticity than Macpherson, the poem’s supposed mere discoverer-cum-faithful translator.  Therefore, Boswell must have believed (or at least wished to believe) that Fingal was more than a modern English poem “compounded with names, and stories and passages in old songs” and could have believed (and not merely wished to believe) that it was something just barely short of a line-by-line translation of a fully extant epic in written Earse.  A 1775 letter from him to Johnson (Life, Saturday, 18 February 1775, pp. 586-588 in Chapman’s edition) suggests that a year-and-a-half after the Hebridean tour JB was strongly leaning towards the second belief, and the letter’s inclusion in the Life absent any editorial comment suggests that even as late as ca. 1790 he was at minimum unembarrassed at having leant thereunto.  In the letter Boswell says he thinks that the “antiquity of a good proportion of the poems of Ossian” can “be proved to a certain degree,” and substantiates his conjecture by references to two purportedly forthcoming pieces of textual evidence—a new manuscript “discovered” by Macpherson, and even more promisingly, “several MSS of Earse poetry” recently brought to Edinburgh by one Ranald MacDonald (!).  Johnson promptly (by his standards) wrote back upbraiding Boswell for “going wild about Ossian” and reminding him that the manuscripts easily could have been “forged for the occasion” of providing a fictitious literary context for the emergence of Fingal.  Needless to say, Boswell was pursuing a will o’ the wisp, and none of these prospects of Ossian-authentication ever came to anything.  Johnson’s suspicions about the supposed ancient Earse manuscripts were well founded, and a moment’s reflection will suffice to show that they were inevitable.  For a belief in the authenticity of the manuscripts mentioned by Boswell presupposes an historically unprecedented state of affairs, namely that of a scattered smattering of hermits each writing entirely on his own and in complete isolation from both his contemporaries and his immediate posterity.  If there had been any sort of written Earse literary tradition in place before the publication of Fingal, it would have been impossible for it not to become generally known, for a literary tradition is an inherently social and communitarian phenomenon.
But why was Boswell so keen on believing in the authenticity of Fingal in the first place?  The application of Johnson’s quip that “[a] Scotchman must be a very sturdy moralist, who does not love Scotland better than truth” deductively to Boswell will not get us very far towards answering this question, because in the most phenomenally material sense perhaps no Scotchman hated Scotland and his fellow Scotchmen more vehemently than Boswell did: he could not abide residing either in Edinburgh or at his country estate of Auchinleck, and jumped into the fly (i.e., semi-express stagecoach) to London whenever he had the flimsiest pretext for doing so; once there he avoided the capital’s quasi-community of North British émigrés and tourists almost as effectively as he did the pox (though not the clap)—and when he was so unfortunate as to find himself confined to a company of Londinian Caledonians, he invariably animadverted (privately, of course, in his journal) on their supposedly unsurpassable ill breeding and illiberality.  At bottom I believe—and believe I can show—that Boswell’s Ossianic credulity, whether genuine or assumed, was most fundamentally grounded not in nationality (Boswell’s own term for bigotry springing from an attachment to one’s country of birth [I refrain from using the more twenty-first centurily idiomatic term ‘nationalism’ for reasons to become evident soon]) but rather in a certain habitus or lifestyle niche [I refrain from searching for more eighteenth-centurily idiomatic terms for reasons to become evident perhaps even sooner]), a habitus or lifestyle niche that was both regressive in impeding the spread of enlightened ideals and principles, and forward-looking in being a kind of pattern or prolepsis of lifestyle choices-cum-habitus(es) adopted all over the world in subsequent decades and indeed centuries.  This was the habitus or lifestyle niche of a sort of plucky local feudal lord both defiantly resisting the fiats of a distant, malevolent would-be omnipotent administrative power while complacently doling out great lashings of benevolent administrative whoopass to his own subordinates and dependants.  It was not a niche that Boswell was ever capable of inhabiting and at bottom it was not one that he either consistently or strongly desired to inhabit, but at times, when he seemed to be making no progress towards his any of his genuine ambitions—chief among them those of being a great statesman and being a great author--he liked to fancy that he did inhabit it and was not scrupulous in his choice of fuel for the fire of his fancy.  In my lengthy propadeutic to this syllabus I likened Boswell’s material socioeconomic position to that of the eldest son of the mayor of a small ultra-provincial twenty first-century American city, by which I meant that as far as anybody else in the world—and I do really mean the world, not just the British Isles--was concerned, he was just some semi-random schlub of a gentleman of middling station and modest means, meaning in turn someone not lightly to be sneezed at but also someone not by any means to be made much of a fuss over.  In that propadeutic I also remarked on Boswell’s remote but unchallengeable kinship to (or with) a number of royal persons, most notably King James I, and more than once later on, in the syllabus proper (including the present installment thereof), I have had occasion to mention Boswell’s heirdom to and eventual ownership of a vast but unfruitful quasi-feudal estate, Auchinleck.  Neither the pedigree nor the estate was of immediate material use to Boswell in his capacity as a budget grand tourist, jobbing barrister, or de facto gentleman-amateur man of letters, but both were of immeasurable spiritual use to him in supplying him with reasonably plausible counterfactual national or indeed world-historical scenarios in which he, the metaphysically infungible James Boswell, would have played a more prominent part.  If only history had taken a different turn some two or three hundred years ago, why then he, James Boswell, would have been not merely the prospective or present feckless landlord of a couple of dozen petty tenant farmers—many of whom practically had to be shaken upside-down by their boots to yield months and indeed years of unpaid rent—but an expectant or actual lord plain, pure, and simple, with the power of life and death over a couple of hundred serfs chained to their huts and plows like so many dogs.  If only the mercantile system of life had not prevailed in Britain, why then Auchinleck could have been the oat-basket of Scotland instead of merely, from the strictly agricultural point of view, a twopenny-halfpenny vanity afforestation laboratory.  If only feudalism were still the ascendant political-economic dispensation, why then he, James Boswell, would have been at the very least a highly influential courtier at Holyroodhouse and at the none-too-improbable very most king of Scotland.  And from indulging in fantasies centering on his own counterfactual feudal person it was an easy transition to fantasizing vicariously about the counterfactual fortunes of other counterfactual overdogs—about the Corsicans, for instance: a proverbially once proud and independent race, some of whom, at the time of Boswell’s grand-touristic visit Corsica in 1765, were fighting a guerilla campaign against their then administrative and military masters, the Genoese.  Boswell took to the rebelling Corsicans like a Salvation Army general to a passel of hobos.  Even before returning to the Italian mainland he had a letter sent to his new acquaintance-cum-third father J. J. Rousseau, inviting the philosopher to come to the island and help draw up a constitution for the prospectively independent nation; once back in England, he met with William Pitt the Elder for the especial purpose of urging the prime minister to initiate aggressive British military intervention against the Genoese, and at David Garrick’s 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford, he ludicrously appeared in the costume of a Corsican gentleman-bandido.  His book on Corsica—an amalgam of potted history and Life-like notes of his conversations with the natives during his sojourn—sold astonishingly well and made him something of a household name (in the 1770s, long before the publication of the Life, one finds Lichtenberg using the German equivalent of the adjective “Boswellian”), but neither in writing nor in person was he able to stir the faintest soupcon of interest in the cause of Corsican independence among his fellow-Britons.  Johnson, although he loved the book as a slice of vita incognita, took a very dim view of Boswell’s political advocacy, and lectured him on it in language strongly proleptic of his denunciation of his friend’s Ossianomania: “You have, somehow or other, warmed your imagination.  I wish there were some cure, like the lover’s leap, for all heads of which some single idea has obtained an unreasonable and irregular possession.  Mind your own affairs, and leave the Corscans to mind theirs” (Life, Aetat. 57; Thursday, 6 November 1766, p. 369).  Pitt could see no reason whatsoever—either strategic or moral--for contesting the Genoans’ sovereignty over Corsica.  “We cannot,” he dryly remarked in a letter to Boswell, “invade Corsica merely because it has been visited by James Boswell.”  Not even the leader of the Corsican resistance, the London-resident exile General Pasquale Paoli, the “George Washington of Corsica,” could match Boswell’s advocacy of Corsican independence in point of enthusiasm or perdurabilty.  When in 1790, a full quarter-century after Boswell’s visit to the island, the new revolutionary French government offered to annex Corsica with a guarantee of full French citizenship and all the rights thereof to its inhabitants, this was good enough for Paoli, who accepted the proposal without demur and shipped off homeward in a trice.  But it was not good enough by a long chalk (or shot) for James Boswell, who glumly remarked in his journal, “It was somewhat melancholy to think of the General as having acceded to the dominion of France over Corsica” (Great Biographer, January 6, 1790; p. 29).  But being as free-floating, as unconnected to a specific soil as Boswell’s feudal-underdogophilia was, it did not confine itself to European inamoratae, and indeed sought and obtained its third great crush on the other side of the Atlantic.  “Do you mean to say that Boswell supported the American colonists in their heroic struggle against the tyrannical George III?  Bully for him!”  Why yes, I do mean to say, among other things that he supported the American revolutionists (albeit that as a Johnsonian Tory I blench at the thought of calling George III a tyrant), because he did support them; and yet, at the same I don’t mean to say that, inasmuch as it was not solely in their capacity as revolutionists that he supported them.  “I must say I’m drawing a blank here.”  Think man (or woman—or, rather [I beg your pardon!], ma’am or miss), think!  What singular habitus-eme or ethicule, apart from their lust for independence, is it that the so-called founding fathers are best (and at the same time worst [hint! hint!]) known for?  It might help if you were to orient yourself geographically away from the New English or Franklinian-Adamsian pole of the colonial map and towards the Virginian or Washingtonian-Jeffersonian one.  “So, then, he admired them as tobacco farmers?”  You are getting awfully warm, for in eighteenth-century North America, where tobacco is farmed there will always be—  “—Not slaves?”  I am afraid so—and genuinely or literally afraid so, for apart perhaps from his only intermittently repentant propensity for adulterous philandering no element of his moral composition is more repellent: throughout his life Boswell was an enthusiastic champion of slave-driven agriculture.  Indeed, so ardent was his love of slavery that when a bill for its abolition came up for a vote in Parliament in 1791, he felt driven to pamphletize and balladeer in defense of the institution, by authoring and publishing a poem informatively entitled No Abolition of Slavery.  It is certainly by no means the tiniest subatomic particle of my intent to justify or palliate Boswell’s maintenance of this abhorrent position—and least of all to do so by way of the you have to understand it in the context of the general mindset of the time soft-shoe routine, because in late eighteenth-century Britain slavery hardly enjoyed the universal acquiescence that it had enjoyed in, say fourth century-B.C. Athens; for, as the editors of the last volume of his private papers point out, “[in] his anti-abolitionism Boswell was certainly opposed to the best minds in England—Burke, Fox, and Pitt [the Younger, as distinct from the Elder Pitt mentioned above] united in supporting Wilberforce’s” 1791 slavery abolition bill (Danziger and Brady, p. 142),  and indeed Johnson himself (then deceased for seven years) doubtlessly would have supported it, in the light of his obdurately fierce opposition to the institution (in illustration of which one may cite, as but one of a great many examples, his toast of “Here’s to the next insurrection of negroes in the West Indies!”).  At the same time, out of not only fairness to Boswell, but also care for the integrity of the thread of the argument of this essay, I must make it clear that Boswell’s pro-slavery stance was not motivated in the slightest by what we now would call racism, by a belief that people of African descent were peculiarly suited to menial occupations; to the contrary, he was a firm believer in the assimilability of black people into the middle and upper strata of Anglophone society, and in the above-mentioned poem he bizarrely enough argued that a career as a slave was the ideal entrée into that society for the average black person (presumably he had the Roman empire’s many famous and powerful freedmen in mind as a precedent), and even went so far as sympathetically to style himself a black (on account of his own by-Scotitish-standards very dark complexion).  At heart Boswell was a meritocrat both by necessity and inclination: his quasi-aristocratic laurels were too meager and wilted for him to rest on them even if he had really wanted to, and complementarily he was much more powerfully drawn to self-made men like Johnson and Rousseau than to landed grandees like Lords Bute and Lonsdale who could have advanced him to positions of great wealth, power, and prestige if he had been capable of enduring their overweening snootiness and pedestrian table talk for more than two evenings in succession.  But even a meritocrat could dream of quasi-feudal dominion, couldn’t he?  The American slave owner managed, at least in his wealthiest incarnations, to live like a proper country gentleman presiding over an unbudgeable labor force numbering in the hundreds, and that was enough to earn him Boswell’s sympathy; about the ethnic constitution of that labor force he did not give a fig.  In toto, Boswell’s sympathy with (or for) the American colonists, like his sympathy with or for the Ossian-believers and the Corsican rebels, may be termed cultural-political kitsch on the model of Charles Rosen’s notion of religious kitsch, which Rosen saw exemplified in the oratorios of Boswell’s near contemporary Felix Mendelssohn (who, it is worth mentioning, visited the Hebrides as an acolyte of Ossian, and was inspired by the sight of a legendary cave visited by Boswell and Johnson half a century earlier to write a tone-poem entitled Fingal’s Cave).  Just as religious kitsch allows one to savor the grandeur and consolation afforded by genuine religious conviction without exacting the cradle-to-grave, round-the-clock commitment of a full-fledged creed, so cultural-political kitsch allows one to revel in the perquisites of a certain cultural-political position without actually requiring one to affiliate oneself officially and wholeheartedly with a specific nationality, sub-nationality, party, army, or polity.  Thus as a Scotland-born connoisseur and exponent of cultural-political kitsch, one may smugly champion the advent or discovery of a new Scottish poet while shame-facedly decrying the Scots’ narrow-minded Presbyterianism, or smugly nitpick over the nice phonological distinctions between the Edinburghian and Glaswegian accents while shame-facedly decrying the pan-Caledonian epidemic of Buckfast addiction.
“I can’t help noticing that your second example, the one about the municipal accents and the Buckfastomania epidemic, seems to have been ripped from the human interest pages of a 2015 issue of the Independent rather than from those of a 1795 issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine.”
Well, one does have to have something to use as a pivot-point to one’s peroration, doesn’t one have to do?  Still, I take our point that I have pole-vaulted back into the twenty-first century a tad too precipitously.  So then, to epitomize and consolidate what we (or at least you or you all or you lot) have learned or learnt about the mid-to-late eighteenth-century Anglosphere before I extrapolae its implications for twenty-first-century practice: it was an historical-mini-epoch-cum-sub-world in which people were already not above multiplying certain factitious distinctions for self-marketing purposes—as witnessed by the Plymouthian anti-“Dockers” affair and the Ossian craze—but in which this proclivity for factitious distinction-multiplying had not yet spread into the linguistic domain.  In this domain a remarkable degree of uniformity prevailed, and the general will was to heighten rather than to diminish this uniformity.  Native Staffordshireans such as Johnson aspired to talk like native Londoners, and native Scotsmen such as Boswell aspired to talk like native (note the lower-case n [not that I wish to be taken to assume that eighteenth-century American Indians spoke an English that was any more outlandish than the standard Midwesternese of their twenty first-century descendents]) Americans.  Johnson’s Dictionary participated in this general drive towards linguistic standardization: it unapologetically laid down guidelines for usage, spelling, and pronunciation that were accepted and put into practice without resentment or embarrassment throughout the English-speaking world.  In contrast to a very late twentieth-century edition of one of its successors, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Johnson’s Dictionary neither featured a disclaimer noting that it gave the “pronunciation associated especially with southern England” nor flagged every third word with a regional usage marker (Br. Am. Aus., etc.) warning the remaining three-fifths or seven-ninths or ninety-seven-hundredths of the Anglophone population that they should utter or write the word in question only if they did not much mind dying.
The middle-to-late-eighteenth-century Anglosophere was a historical-mini-epoch-cum-sub-world in which while regional accents were acknowledged and tolerated (though never celebrated), full-fledged dialects and sociolects were as yet unknown.  While a person might deviate from the pan-Anglospheric standard of English out of ignorance or willful negligence, he was not expected to cling to his deviations—let alone cultivate them—just because he came from a certain place or occupied a certain station in society, or to employ more of these deviations when addressing those of his own region or social station than when addressing those from other parts of the world or walks of life.  An eminent Scottish lowlander jurist and landowner like Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck and Laird of Auchinleck, could unselfconsciously write to his son in the same inconspicuously standard English prose style he would have used in writing to an English peer (who, admittedly confusingly enough, would not have been a Peer, a member of the House of Lords, but a mere esquire, an untitled member of the English landed gentry); and a humble Scottish highlander hut-dweller like Macqueen of Auknasheals of could get away with speaking that selfsame standard English to a south-of-the-Tweed luminary such as Samuel Johnson.  In short, in the linguistic domain, the middle-to-late-eighteenth-century Anglosophere was a(n) utopia, and one that we would do very well (indeed the veriest well imaginable) to revive in our own mini-epoch-cum-sub-world, a mini-epoch-cum-sub-world that is, after all, roughly geographically coterminous with its predecessor, such that it may claim with some legitimacy—a legitimacy seldom enjoyed by any entity in this bastardized, hyper-meretricious super-epoch—to be the direct lineal descendent of that predecessor.   
“So you really believe we should and can force ourselves to speak a version of English that sounds and reads essentially the same in Brisbane, Boston (Massachusetts and Lincolnshire) Bombay (excuse me, Mumbai), Baltimore (Maryland and County Cork), and Brooks (Alberta and Cor knows where else)?”
Indeed I do.
“But surely such a scheme is classically utopian in the negative sense—i.e., as a synonym for utterly, pie-in-the-sky shamanistically impracticable.  Why, didn’t Dr. Johnson himself, in the preface to his Dictionary, pour scorn on the lexicographical fool or quack who believes or pretends he has invented an ‘elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years’ and asserts that he ‘can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay’?”
Indeed he did, but it is hardly such an embalming I have in mind, and Johnson himself, for all his strictures against would-be linguistic undertakers, did not regard his own  efforts as a linguistic conservationist as utterly futile.  Embalming is, after all, something one can do only to a dead body or ex-organism, and in invoking this process Johnson was reminding his readers that all previous lexicographers had striven to confer on the modern living European vernacular tongues the immutability of the two great European dead languages—classical Greek and Latin.  (Here it should be mentioned that not even classical Latin enjoyed such immaculate mummification, for the Latin used by scholars in the Middle Ages and Renaissance is chock full of neologistic words and turns of phrase that would have set Julius Caesar scratching his bald pate.)  To assert that we should exert no effort to shape the course of the development of our living language because we cannot embalm it is as absurd as to assert that we ought to abandon our infant children to the elements, to let them seek out their own food and shelter; or—perhaps more aptly, given that English is hardly an infant language and probably at youngest a middle-aged one—that we should refrain from setting a good example to the men and women in our social orbit, because we cannot embalm them.  Johnson knew that the English language had changed over the preceding centuries and knew that it would continue to change in the centuries to follow, but he also knew (as even few English grammar pundits, being poor linguistic historians, do today) that its most recent history—i.e., the preceding century-and-half, since the time of Elizabeth I--had fundamentally been a history not of dynamism and upheaval, of increasing difference between the English of one generation and that of its successor, but of consolidation, refinement, standardization, and stabilization—he knew that although a greater span of years separated him from the Restoration mini-epoch than had separated the Restoration mini-epoch from the late Elizabethan age, Dryden and Temple were still a much easier read for him than Shakespeare and Bacon had been for them.  And if the present trend continued, why then the Anglophones of a generation or two hence would find an even smoother readerly road to traverse in his own writings.  For after all, as he wrote in the concluding pages of Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland, even four hundred miles north of London,
The conversation of the Scots grows every day less unpleasing to the
English; their peculiarities wear fast away; their dialect is likely to
become in half a century provincial and rustick, even to themselves.  The
great, the learned, the ambitious, and the vain, all cultivate the
English phrase, and the English pronunciation, and in splendid companies
Scotch is not much heard, except now and then from an old Lady.
How oddly this reads to us now!—now, that is, when an English-accented Scot is not so much a rare bird as a minor subspecies of that uncommon but by no means endangered or highly sought after creature known as Homo brattus legationum, a person who, although nominally hailing from a certain country other than England, and often a non-Anglophone one, spent his formative years being shuttled around the world owing to the vocational exigencies of his parents, and consequently was educated exclusively at expatriate English prep-or-public-style schools, and consequently grew up speaking generic English English (i.e., RP or Estuary English).  In today’s Scotland, as in the Scotland of roughly the previous three semi-centuries, one speaks with a Scottish accent no matter how “ambitious, learned,” or “vain” one is, and in today’s splendid (or at any rate most expensively catered) Scottish companies, the English pronunciation is not heard even from the oldest of old Ladies.  Whether this pan-Caledonian écossaisement of north-of-the-Tweed English is intrinsically good or bad is difficult (for me if for nobody else) to say, although I shall try to say it a bit later.  For the moment, the salient point to be made about it is that it was by no means an intrinsically organic development that issued from the soil of a freestanding Lallands wilderness that had been suffered to go unweeded since pre-Jacobean times; that to the contrary, it was the product of a wholly artificial intervention in a comparatively organic development that, had it been suffered to continue, would have made Edinburgh and Glasgow linguistically interchangeable not only with London-upon-Thames, but with London, Ontario as well.
“But as Johnson himself implies in the passage quoted immediately above, the Scots of his day were deliberately adopting the English pronunciation in servile imitation of their English overlords, as a self-degrading act tantamount to that of dropping their breeches (or kilts) and affixing a sign to their buttocks(es) reading All Sassenachs Welcome.”
Johnson implies nothing of the sort in that passage.  He implies, rather, that the Scots of his day had taken to the English-accented English of their day as swimmingly and unconstrainedly as the most hermetically tight-assed/arsed wild duck to water.  Granted—or, to be franker, grudgingly not completely rejected—in the year 16-whenever the Scots may have started out imitating south-of-the-Tweed English out of veneration or fear of a more centrally powerful geopolitical collective, but nobody (no, not even Oliver Cromwell) twisted their arms, as they say, to make them talk like the members of that collective, and in any case even supposing such snobbery to have been the prime motive of the Scots’ adoption of English English, it did not long hold on to that pride of place, because the children and grandchildren of the original linguistic arrivistes grew up simply thinking that the English way was the way all grown-ups talked, such that by James Boswell’s father’s day the English accent-cum-dialect was simply the way the average Scotspeople, or Everyscotsperson talked, for reasons exactly consubstantial with the ones that preclude my speaking with a Southern accent despite the fact that I hail from a certifiably Southern state.  And if such an outward-looking linguistic norm was capable of being voluntarily and generally adopted by the Scots two hundred years ago, surely there can at least be no technical or moral obstacle to the securing of an equally voluntary and general adoption—or, in some cases, re-adoption—of a comparably outward-looking linguistic norm among the early twenty-first century Anglosphere’s more frowardly insular geo-demographic segments.
“So, you are hoping every last Jack and Jill of us Anglophones will magically begin to speak RP qua prelapsarian linguistic ideal.”
No, I am hoping you will none too magically begin to speak eighteenth-century English English qua prelapsarian linguistic norm, a norm from which the purest strain of RP in RP’s heday—the strain of Hetfield for Hatfield, byeags for bags, flersh for flesh and veddy for very—is at least as far removed as the present-day southern English light-Cockney standard, and to which both present-day standard American English and the standard southern English RP-light standard of some fifty years ago are much closer, and equidistantly so.  And in asserting that they are equidistantly close to this norm, I am essentially saying that present-day standard American English and RP-light English already are the sole direct descendants and joint torch-bearers of the eighteenth-century cosmopolitan English standard, and that it would take but the most minor tweaking to each of them to produce a new cosmopolitan English standard too demographically imposing to be either poo-pooh’d as excessively formal or execrated as elitist.  From the extant phono-philological evidence we can see that there have really been only two substantial (albeit substantially pernicious) changes in the English standard since Johnson and Boswell’s day, two changes--one apiece on each side of the Pond—that together deserve let us say ninety-three percent of the blame for the deplorable illusion that Britons and Americans are “divided by a common language.”  The first, which I have already mentioned, was the complete derhoticization-- the universal elision of non-initial or intervocalic ‘r’--of the English pronunciation south of the Tweed and east of Devonshire.  Except from the points of view of advertisers and poets, this was a thoroughly regrettable change because it allowed a great many pairs of formerly mutually unmistakable words—calve and carve, saw and sore, aren’t and aunt, pawn and porn, sauce and source, and, yes, Shaw and shore, not to mention Shaw and sure--to be confused with and substituted for each other in the mind of all listeners, fellow arr-droppers and non fellow arr-droppers alike.   The second big bad change, the one that has supervened largely albeit not exclusively on the west side of the Atlantic, is what, for unwilling ignorance of the professionally certified linguistic terminology, I can only call the dee-ification (or D-ification) of the tee (or ‘T’) phoneme.  [While I have managed to discover that the linguists call the dee-ified tee itself a flap, I have not managed to learn their name for the phenomenon of the change from dee to tee itself; presumably it is part of that arbitrarily selected ca. five per cent of the lexicon of the trade that every profession jealously keeps under lock and key from the general public by way of cheaply but most efficaciously hamstringing all would-be gentleman amateur interlopers.]  This change has equaled if not exceeded the synthetic havoc wreaked in the listener’s ear by the other one: just consider how hard it is, when hearing a Yank speak of a writer, to be sure that he is not speaking of a rider, to certify that he is holding forth not about the non-toxic children’s clay substitute Play-Do but about the philosopher Plato, that he is not neutrally describing the batter in a pancake or ballpark, but censoriously (and with almost certainly deliberately employed nonstandard grammar) appraising the conduct of a certain person as badder than that of another, that he is not repining at the winter, or darkest moment, of a contest, but rather marveling at the winner of it [in this last example, one sees that the ‘tee’ has been not merely softened but eliminated outright; more on such ultra-dee-ification anon]!  It seems to me that if these two changes were suddenly reversed, that if all RP light-speaking Brits were to start pronouncing all their arrs, and all standard American English-speaking Yanks were suddenly to start pronouncing their tees as tees, we would end up with two linguistic aggregations (I gag at calling them communities) that would be virtually aurally indistinguishable from each other, such that Pond-side wise a native former RP light-speaking Liverpudlian would find himself as unplacable in Boston as in London, and a native former standard American English-speaking Sheboyganian in Liverpool as in New York.  To be sure, there are a few other phonological differences between standard English and RP light, but the only major one is both thoroughly unsystematic and extremely limited in scope, affecting as it does only a probably very nearly literal handful of words, such that it could be resolved in a matter of minutes by a combination of coin-tossing and a simple binary accept/reject test.  I am referring here to the æ/ah split in the pronunciation of short or non-diphthongized a, the split between the Yankish prononciation of “raft” as ræft and the English pronunciation thereof as rahft, of the Yank pronunciation of can’t as cæn’t and the English pronunciation thereof as cahn’t.  (It must be noted that in the English north [though not in Scotland] adherence to the “ah” half of the split does not generally obtain these days, as official Northern accentual protocol requires that every non-diphthongized a  should be pronounced at a point midway between ae and ah: thus for most present-day Northerners, the As in bath, raft, cat, and sat are mutually homophonic.  Although universalization of this practice would be desirable to the extent that it would appease both parties by satisfying neither, the practice is ultimately unacceptable as a norm because it could result only in a multiplication of gratuitous homophones: in Northernese, not only can’t and cant are homophonic but also, for example, nan and naan.) Here, when one and only one of the two pronunciations is a homophone of another word, it should be rejected, and the other pronunciation accepted as the standard: thus cæn’t should be rejected as a pronunciation of can’t because it is a homophone of the noun cant, the selfsame cant that Johnson advised Boswell to clear his mind of (and of which, incidentally, adherence to a regional or class-specific accent on the grounds of authenticity is a locus classicus) and the cahn’t pronunciation accepted as a standard because it is not a homophone of any other word.  “But what about its homophonia with the surname of the author of the Critique of Pure Reason?”  Homophonia with proper names cahn’t be allowed to count in this calculus.  For one must consider to what absurdly counter-pragmatic sort of determination it tends to lead us, namely the ceding of de jure phonological proprietorship to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with an  ultra-obscure surname whose pronunciation just happens to coincide with one of two highly popular pronunciations of one ultra-famous common noun.  “So it might, for example, encourage us to prefer the pronunciation of raft as rahft, by way of allowing the descendants of the minor actor and night club entertainer George Raft to wash their ancestor’s aura clean of every last bit of metonymic timber emanating from the vessel that bore Huck and Jim down the Mississippi.”  Exactly.  “So then, you are presumably in favo(u)r of the pronunciation of raft as ræft.”  No, I am in favo(u)r of tossing a coin on it because there is no other common noun with which it could be confused regardless of which way it is pronounced. “But what about all the other interpondial vowel splits?”  To what splits could you possibly be referring?  “Well, for instance, the one between the way ‘o’ is pronounced in words like hot and dog, such that in the States one says haht dahg, whereas in Britain one says something like hoht dawg.”  I don’t know what raffish sorts of Yanks you have been consorting with, but where I come from, the ‘o’ in hot has a distinctly different sound from those of both the ‘a’ in father and the ‘o’ in dog, such that we end up saying hot dog pretty much exactly as an RP light-speaking Brit would say it.  One must be careful to distinguish the genuine article from the caricature.  There certainly are some Americans who habitually bulldoze the ah, o, aw distinction, but they are decidedly in the minority, and their minoritihood is signalized by the ridicule to which they (in contrast to the such much more destructive linguistic roughshod-riders the as Italian Americans and the taxi-drivers) are held up in movies and on television, perhaps most notably in the oeuvre of Joel and Ethan Cohen.  And there can be little doubt that the RP-light speaking Brit tends to throw the o and the aw a bit farther back than does his American counterpart, so that when he says, for example, walk, his aw draws on deeper recesses of the oral cavity than those ever exploited by the standard American English speaker’s larynx.  But the difference made is ultimately very slight, certainly by comparison with the difference separating a standard-American or RP-light short ‘u’ (the ‘u’ in us, rut, and hull) and that of a present-day Yorkshireperson, or the standard American or RP-light long or diphthongized ‘a’ (the one in wait, pay, and rain) and that of a present-day east Londoner.  And as to the remaining phonemes—well, as the ‘or’ in my last two examples suggests, they are pronounced essentially identically by RP-light speaking Englishpeople and standard American English speakers.  Had, bad, bed, green, ice, get, bread, both, if, run, roan --all of these, whether spoken as freestanding words or as syllables in longer words, are effectively inter-Atlantic anti-Shibboleths, phonological units that can be guaranteed to frustrate any attempt to place the speaker as a Limey or a Yank.  And this overall common-groundedness of standard Americans and RP- light Limeys holds for all the other elements of language—for grammar, for vocabulary, and even for punctuation and spelling.  The double negative, sat for sitting, ess-less genitive, finite verb elision (he done, I seen, etc.), and was-for-were swap, among thousands of other grammatical solecisms indulged in at will (and nearly universally, as a kind of autistic hyper dumbed-down lingua franca) by exponents of dialects and sociolects on both sides of the Atlantic, all elicit peristaltic tremors of nausea from standard American English and RP-light speakers alike.  Of genuine examples of grammatical division between the two aggregations I can think of only one: the retention of gotten as a full-fledged past participle in American English, as against its long-established displacement in that capacity by got in English English.  Discrepancies in vocabulary are for the very most part bound to geographically inalienable states of affairs and hence have more to do with aggregations of residents or citizens than with those of language-users.  To call, for example, ASBO a Briticism, is misleading first because it implies that ASBO is “their word for what we call a(n)…,” when there is no precise or even rough Stateside equivalent of an ASBO; and second because it implies that knowledge of ASBO’s meaning is confined to fluent native speakers of English English when it is bound to be as widely current among first-generation Polish immigrants to England who cannot as yet do more than haltingly ask for directions in the principal language of their adopted country.  As for proper Briticisms and Americanisms in the sense epiphenomenally defined in the previous sentence, they are not only far less numerous (i.e., fewer) than they have been cracked up to be, but also far more evanescent qua inter-Atlantic anti-anti-Shibboleths.  In my day (i.e., ca. 1980 through 1992 at the latest), chap was still the preferred English English term for a man who was not necessarily (although not necessarily not) a gentleman, and guy in that sense was still stigmatized (however technically inaccurately) over there as an Americanism; and we Yanks, for our part, believed chap to be as originally and exclusively English as tuppence and crumpets.  In the England of 2015, guy in the anymannish sense is as much the ruler of the roost as it is in the U.S., and chap over there is regarded as a hopelessly upper-crusty anachronism dusted off and trotted out only by certain historically orientated sketch show writers seeking to evoke the era of the so-called Ealing Comedies; and complementarily, the American literary corpus of the very early twentieth century has turned out to be teeming with chaps.  (Of course, they were there all along, but somehow one didn’t notice them—although one should have done, of course.)  In short, in the past thirty years chap has gone from being a current Briticism to a pan-Anglospheric archaism.  And consider another example: apartment.  In my day, no Brit ever referred to a single-story dwelling space in a larger building as anything but a flat; now it is rare to hear a Brit describing such a space as anything but an apartment except as part of the compound expression block of flats.  And lest one reflexively feed the phenomenon to hand into the maw of that tired (and sated) old bugbear Americanization, it is worth mentioning that queue and run up to were Briticisms in my day, and that I have even heard an actor in a recent (i.e., 2013) American movie refer to a bathroom as a loo.  Such mutual crossovers and cancellations are entirely natural because words are wont to travel long distances (please note the absence of an appositive paying drooling tribute the miracles of satellite telephone technology, an absence owing to my awareness that even hand-driven printing press-cum-horse driven stagecoach technology is plenty expeditious for the conveyance of words across oceans and continents), and once a word is stuck in your head it is devilishly difficult to restrain yourself from repeating it.  Of course, by an effort of will you can force or train yourself not to use a certain word, but the standard American English or RP-light speaker has never seen any compelling motive to such repression; to the contrary, on learning a new word he or she immediately looks for opportunities in which to use it.  Why, within the past two years I have come across the venerably Yank-bemusing admonition “Mind the Step” at the front threshold of a bar on Roland Avenue here in Baltimore.  A nudge-nudge, wink-winkish affectation by a particularly chronic Anglophile, you say?  Why, doubtless (not to be confused with doubtlessly) it is an affectation, but as Chris Eigemann’s character in the movie Kicking and Screaming says, affectations have a tendency to become habits; and by way of illustrating this apercu he points to a friend of his who now smokes like a chimney as a result of mimicking his sometime girlfriend, who for her part is now not only his ex-girlfriend but also very much an ex-smoker.  Such do-se-dos are as common between linguistic agglomerations as between individuals.
Even orthographical and typographical differences between American and English English, in many ways the most glaring ones and therefore the most seemingly hallowed, are less firmly and anciently established than one might think.  There is no more distinctively American orthographical trait than the omission of u in words such as hono(u)r, colo(u)r, and labo(u)r, but pick up any book published in the U.S. before about 1920 and you are as likely to see the us included as omitted.  As for punctuation—well, in my day, quotes-within-quotes being the comparative rarities that they are, you could read a hundred pages in an Oxford UP or Penguin-published book without encountering a single instance of double quotation marks a.k.a. inverted commas); now double quotation marks seem to be the standard throughout the Anglosphere.
Any questions?  Ask without fear; I’ve all the answers here.
“Certainly.  There are a number of objections that can be made to your scheme on teleological grounds, on the grounds that the end it seeks is intrinsically undesirable.  But for now I shall assume that the realization of it is worthwhile, and simply ask you How in the ever-living heck are you going to implement it?  To get your pan-Anglospheric pronunciation into the curricula of the schools presumably would take decades and cost billions (or milliards) in salaries and honoraria for lawyers, lobbyists, linguists, developmental psychologists, et al.
I have no interest in getting it into the schools for the eminently compelling reason that I believe the schools’ contribution to the transmission and maintenance of the rules and norms of English has always been negligible and gives no sign of being augmentable.  The first generation of eighteenth-century English English-speaking Scots did not learn the English pronunciation as children from their teachers but as adults from Englishpeople (and fellow Scotspeople who had already made the switch) whom they met in the everyday round of business and pleasure; and complementarily the near universality of RP as a pedagogical standard in Britain of the 1960s was powerless to prevent an entire generation of youngsters from deserting RP for the UK’s present psychotic-quilt of ersatz dialects and sociolects.  There is no single body of persons whose sense of its own importance is more inflated than the siblinghood of teachers, nor any whose assessment of itself is more abjectly or thoughtlessly seconded by the rest of society; nor is there any skill that teachers have less a share in forming than language, given that most children have already acquired proficiency in it before they arrive at school; nor is there any language—at least not any living Indo-European tongue—towards the acquisition of which teachers’ inculcative powers, such as they are, are less useful than English, with its almost indecently simple grammar and syntax.  A teacher can indeed have a powerful influence on the way a youngster speaks, but only qua exemplar rather than qua teacher—as a practitioner of the rules the youngster already knows, rather than as an inculcator of unknown rules.
“So then I take it that what you are effectively hoping or aiming for is a so-called grassroots movement that will see to the propagation of your interpondial English standard?”
Effectively yes, although I faintly recoil from the G-word, what with its tendency instantly to conjure up the multi-sensory spectacle of a thousand so-called town hall meetings swelled by a thousand sweaty, dumpy, salt-and-pepper bearded or unwaxed womanstachio’d, bum/fanny pack-girded, fairly-to utterly-inarticulate-yet-unmuzzleably-garrulous townspeople apiece.  What I am really hoping or aiming for is completely lacking any sort of organizational apparatus of even the most informal sort.  What I am really hoping or aiming for, rather, is a sort of de facto bipartite army of linguistic Johnny Appleseeds roaming through the supermarkets of the Great Plains or the Flatiron District and asking for the locations of the better butter and bottled water with proper, full-fledged tees; or through the bowling alleys of the West Midlands or Hackney and demanding a pair of size fours (or thirteens) and triumphing over a rare six-four spare with richly rhotic arrs.  I am, I confess, loath to start up and constitute (however temporarily) such an army on my lonesome, to enter the lists as a de facto private-cum-five star general, if only because punctiliousness about one’s pronunciation of the letter T is held by the so-called medical authorities to be the cardinal symptom of a certain institutionalization-worthy mental illness.
“So then the best part of the population of the British Isles is or are worthy of incarceration in a mental institution (or divers medical institutions)?”
Evidently so, according to Stateside state-of-the-art shrinkology.  It’s lucky that at least so far there is no such thing as an extradition treaty for the embodiers of biologically non-communicable diseases, what what?  But as I was about to say, although I would be loath to start up such an institutionalizable one-man linguistic army, I would, I think, feel reasonably safe and confident in forming one half of a Stateside duo engaged--ideally beginning at opposite coasts and working our respective ways to that place in Kansas that marks the geographical center of the contiguous 48 states—in gently, smilingly but impassably firmly insisting on being shown our interlocutor of the moment’s horse or motorcycle “because unless you are a kinsperson of the female lead of Heathers you must by your own account be in possession of an animal or mechanical steed,” or with feignedly unfeigned horror ordering him or her to report himself or herself forthwith to the police for having presumptively fatally applied a hatchet to the person of a coworker in his or place of residence (I axed Miss April where she lived).   And if I could be sure that a parallel duo was (or were) simultaneously becoming active on the right side of the Pond, if I knew that two people were marching northwards from, say, Portsmouth and southwards from John
o’ Groats, respectively, and buttonholing every non-rhotic speaker to ask him or her, with feignedly unfeigned bemusement, Why does Julie Andrews in the song call fa “a long, long, way to run”?  Surely it’s just a note to go with mi just as la is “a note to go with sol”; or Why does the pop chanteuse Sade insist on having her name pronounced shar-day, given that there’s no arr in it?—why then I could rest content in the very strong hope that the entire Anglosphere would be converted to my standard within a single generation.     
“So you really believe that four people are capable of octo-handedly transforming the linguistic habits of some four or five hundred millions?”
No, I think they are capable of octo-handedly transforming the linguistic habits of perhaps no more than several thousands, but those several thousands are bound to be marked and in a certain measure imitated by the hundreds of thousands of people in their collective social orbit, who will in turn be bound to be marked and imitated by the tens of millions in their collective social orbit, and so on.  And if at any point along the way the good word finds a sympathetic ear in someone responsible for the making of movies or television programs, why then the transformation may very well be accelerated a hundredfold thereafter.
“Why, because the TV or film executive in question may elect to commission some so-called public service announcements extolling the new standard (complete script of one such announcement: SECOND-TIER CELEBRITY: You may think it’s cool to employ glottal stops and dee-ified tees, but make no mistake: slovenly pronunciation can kill.); and to be spliced into every tenth queue of previews or car and soft drink commercials?”
No, and rather because I expect him or her to give so-called artistic expression to his newfound hatred of the linguistically slovenly by commissioning and perhaps even scripting dramas and comedies in which such people are depicted unfavorably.  As anyone who has read the previous installment in this syllabus will know, I believe with Johnson that genuinely but for the most part merely contingently fictional representations—instanced in his day exclusively by novels and plays, but in ours additionally by televisual and cinematic modifications thereof –exert as powerful an influence on the opinions and dispositions of people as do their factual counterparts.  And to any film or TV executive who may be won over to my cause before encountering me in person at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Main Street in downtown Palookaville, and will soon be casting about for the most eloquent and influential means of unfavorably representing the linguistic canaille on the small or big screen, I must issue a recommendation to take the following passage from Johnson’s Rambler No. 4 as his Bible:    
Vice, for vice is necessary to be shewn, should always disgust; nor should the graces of gaiety, or the dignity of courage, be so united with it, as to reconcile it to the mind.  Wherever it appears, it should raise hatred by the malignity of its practices, and contempt by the meanness of its stratagems; for while it is supported by either parts [i.e., talents or abilities] or spirit, it will be seldom heartily abhorred.
The main lesson to be learned from this passage is that mere lampooning of the linguistically slovenly by means of the familiar techniques of vaudeville, farce, and sketch comedy will not be effective towards inculcating linguistic precision and may even tend to reinforce the viewer’s tendencies to linguistic slovenliness.  Whenever a linguistically slovenly person is depicted onscreen as merely ridiculous, the viewer is highly unlikely to “abhor” his linguistic slovenliness because ridiculousness is never incompatible with “parts” or “spirit.”  (Einstein’s ridiculous misplacement of a check for an enormous sum by using it as a bookmark did nothing to undermine his credibility as a physicist, and Crocodile Dundee’s ridiculous ignorance of the existence of bidets merely served as a negative synecdoche for his intimate knowledge of the minutest facets of whatever part of the Australian wilderness is inhabited by crocodiles.)  Therefore it will not do, for example, simply to have a person’s trousers fall down each time he describes someone as sat in a certain place; no, the descent of the trousers must be immediately followed by something so horrifying and devastating that merely by association it is guaranteed to scare the character (along with the viewer of the show) out of ever again substituting sat for sitting.  The spontaneous combustion of the infringer’s genitals seems an especially good candidate for such a horrifying-cum-devastating event, but I can imagine several others that would work just as well.  What is most important is not the specific nature of the event itself but that it should not be followed by any farcical or cartoonish balance-redresser, by any event that in some manner or other persuades us that the devastation was illusory or at least less serious than we supposed.  So: the man with the spontaneously combusted genitals cannot be seen immersing himself in a conveniently proximate barrel of water and heaving a great sigh of contentment; no, he must be seen to suffer, ideally in some Tarkovsky-long static close-up of his twitching, sweating, grimacing face, and the scene should end (perhaps to be followed by a scene opening with a close-up of some civil servant or military man smiling ruefully as if to say touché and then actually saying, ‘Well, it seems your solecism-triggered genital bombs are working after all, Dr. Farch.’) with no prospect of the alleviation of his agony in view.  If for whatever sound dramaturgical reason it proves impracticable to inflict severe physical injury on a linguistically slovenly character, one can always go the route of showing him engaged in some activity that is more likely to arouse disgust in the viewer than linguistic slovenliness itself (is).  It is not easy to think of any activity guaranteed to arouse disgust in an early twenty first-century viewer, but after long ponderation I have come up with one, which I imagine being dramatized as a disincentive to linguistic slovenliness thus: a man is seen entering a room that is evidently his loo or domestic lavatory, then raking about the insides of the toilet bowl with one of those long-handled nets that are used in transporting fish from one aquarium to another, then, back at his kitchen, ladeling a few sausage shaped things out of the net into a frying pan, then tucking into those selfsame SSTs at his dining room table whilst exclaiming in the accent of Ian Macmillan, “Eeyaw, one on’t best yields to coom out o’ me boomhole since   
‘t last World Coop!”  I believe I am right in guessing that most Americans still blench not a little at auto-coprophagia, for although I hear the “hero” of Breaking Bad has committed a host of Gestapo-worthy atrocities, nobody has yet reported to me that he eats his own shit.
“I just can’t believe a person with his priorities so wildly arsiversi as you exists—someone who for the sake of a trivial reform in grammar and pronunciation is willing to set other people’s genitals on fire and to make them eat their own shit.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, babe!  Who—apart from you--said anything about setting any empirical person’s genitals on fire, or making him or her eat his or her own shit?  Remember: we are talking about fictional characters, who will be portrayed by actors, who will be treated as humanely in these productions as they would be on the set of any mainstream horror or disaster flick.  The man (or woman) playing the man (or woman) with the exploding genitals will of course be swathed about the loins in yards of the health and safety-required flame-retardant-cum-concussion proof fabric, and the man (or woman) playing the autocoprophage will be afforded an onscreen repast of some merely coproformic presentation of an utterly innocuous conventional foodstuff–tofu or falafel, or perhaps even a troika or quartet of the choicest chorizo or knackwurst links, if this is his or her preference and the budget permits.  This is not to say that in the course of these productions our doughty performers may not be required to suffer certain, how do you say?, controversial physiochemical changes, albeit only for their own good.  For there can be little doubt that in expertly mimicking the hair-raising, gastric juice-curdling comportment of a genuine linguistic slouch for hours, days, or perhaps even weeks on end, they may come to pick up some of the very habits towards whose extirpation they have been employed, and thereupon pass them on to others in the so-called outside world, others who otherwise may never have dreamt of affecting them.  In order to forestall such pernicious cross-contamination, certain memory-annihilating drugs may need to be administered—naturally in coordination with a powerful course of memory-implanting hypnosis, lest the subject start to wonder what he or she was during the hours, days, or weeks in question.  But even such benign and painless physiochemical measures as these may not be required; for a single or one-off employment of a solecism will scarcely suffice to enable it to take root in an English-speaker’s linguistic habitus, and a sufficiently well-appointed costumes- and-make-up department working in tandem with a sufficiently conscientious continuity editor may allow a single linguistic malefactor to be played by tens, dozens, or even hundreds of actors each sheltered from going native by his total ignorance of all of his character’s lines save the single one (or perhaps even the single fraction of a line) he has been directed to memorize and speak.  In short, we are looking at a project that could not give the most scrupulous, the most finicky, the most copiously bleeding-heart health-and-safety bureau, the flimsiest grounds for compunction or demurral.
“And yet the whole thing smacks of an atrocity that Adolf Hitler himself would have denounced as a war crime in one of his more genocidal moods.”
How so?
“How so?  How so?  You propose to turn an immeasurably rich cornucopia, a veritable eight trillion-hectare rain forest or granola mine, of linguistic diversity, bespeaking thousands of millennia of the morally incorruptible experience of tens of thousands of millions of oppressed (and therefore silenced) linguistic minorities, into a single, bland, white-bread, synthetic vanilla, upper-upper-upper-upper-middle class des(s)ert of linguistic homogeneity, and have the effrontery to ask me how so it is an atrocity that Ado, &c.?”
Now comes the moment, one that has become a veritable set piece in these essays, in which I lay into the DGR for having missed the very point that I have been most intensively belaboring in the preceding however-many-dozens of pages.  Some might say that I should give it a rest and come up with some other rhetorical means of ushering in the so-called home stretches of my essays.  But I cannot see why for variety’s sake alone I ought to dispense with what I cannot but believe to be a very needful office.  For no matter how rationally, exhaustively, and circumstantially one feels one has stated one’s case, one will always—to the extent that one encounters empirical readers at all—be read by people who obdurately insist on missing the point, and this not in the redeemably all-too-human sense of failing to see the implications of one’s argument for want of a due attention to certain consanguinities among terms and concepts, for not noticing, for example, that whereas in mentioning a walking stick on p. 5 one was mindful only of its use as a prop for a pedestrian, when on p. 7 one referred to the same object as a cudgel one was thinking mainly of its use as a weapon.  No, I am thinking of the sub-porcine stupidity of the fellow who having shown up at the entrance of a nightclub or disco with a semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder and been sent packing by the bouncer on the authority of No. 14 on the club’s list of prohibited items, “SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES,” gets right back into the entrance queue with the semi-automatic rifle still ready to hand.  In the present case the No. 14-analogue in the sub-porcinely stupid DGR’s mind is diversity, which, despite my efforts to show it up for the factitious parvenu three-card-Monte trick that it is, he continues to associate with organicity, tradition, and authenticity.  He does not understand that in vice diversity can never be a virtue, that in calling for greater linguistic diversity he is like some newly hired urban police commissioner who, upon consulting the statistics for his new bailiwick and discovering that housebreakings account for ninety percent of the crimes in the city, orders his underlings to encourage their contacts in the underworld to commit acts of rape, assault, murder, and arson.  (Incidentally, while I am smug to say I am completely out of the loop on this subject, it certainly would not surprise me to learn that a police commissioner in my city of residence had issued such in order, in the light of the profuse attention from the movie industry that has been garnered by Baltimore’s unflaggingly stratospheric crime rate.)  The present-day Anglosphere’s pseudo-regional accents and pseudo-sociolects are vices in the purest sense of the term: they are knowing, deliberate deviations from a known and easily followed norm.  Today’s Geordies, Scousers, Jafaikans, and taxi-drivers could talk like Gore Vidal or John Gielgud if they really wanted to, and in fact I suspect that amongst themselves they already do employ the pronunciation, grammar, and diction of these two gentlemen, that like the French in the imagination of Quentin Crisp, they are only talking in a peculiar fashion in order to trick the rest of us, whom they foolishly imagine to be impressed rather than nauseated by the peculiarity.  But perhaps for “foolishly” I should have written “sensibly.”  For after all, what could be more sensible than to assume that when somebody greets your every performance of a particular gesture with an enthusiastic tonguing of your posterior, he unreservedly approves of that gesture?  And how have the rest of us been greeting the solecisms and barbarisms of the linguistically slovenly for the past half-century if not with such outpourings of analingus?  It is time for us to start keeping our tongues to ourselves, or, better yet, to begin reemploying them in their classic capacity as lashes (meaning whips, not the hairs on your eyelids).  Two-hundred-fifty years ago the English language was like a medium-sized, healthy, intelligent, long-lived, and all-around serviceable breed of dog (I am deliberately refraining from naming a specific breed in order to avoid the erroneous but ineluctable charge of invidiously favoring some specific variety of English spoken in at some point in, say, Labrador, Shetland, or Alsace) that flourished from Cape Cod to the Cape of Good Hope.  Then the Scots, thanks to Ossian and Fingal, made the unholy discovery that a sizeable dime or buck could be made off of linguistic idiosyncrasy, and ever since then the champions of grammatically, phonologically, and lexically standardized English have been fighting a running and losing battle with a kind of intercontinental federation of linguistic dog-fanciers, to the present point when the linguistic equivalents of such monstrosities as the teacup-dwelling ********* and flat-faced **** *** (again I avoid naming specific breeds to avoid giving irrelevant emphasis to specific locales) outnumber the old pan-Anglospheric dog by perhaps a hundred to one.  As mentioned before, by far the worst of the corruption has occurred in England since the Second World War.  A certain pair of remarks let slip by that most iconic of late twentieth-century Cockneys, the (now) latish Bob Hoskins, during his 1988 appearance on Desert Island Discs, synecdochically encapsulates the factitiousness and cynical calculatedness of the ghastly sea change precipitated in the English sub-Anglosphere in the past half-century.  On being asked by the presenter if his parents, who had hailed from Essex, had likewise spoken like the progeny of Bow Bells themselves, he guilelessly replied, “Oh, no, they talked like normal people,” meaning, presumably, with a middle-class Home Counties (i.e, RP-light) accent; then, on being asked to explain whence he had picked up his own abnormal London accent, he rather more guilefully answered, “From the streets, of course.” The streets (a.k.a. the street) is a phrase that should be banned from all polite conversation as categorically as the so-called n-word; for, connoting as it does by default a modus vivendi by no means typical of the milieu directly denoted by it, it is endlessly amenable to being pressed into the service of abusive self-misrepresentation.  The street is always understood by default to be the haunt of cutpurses, pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, pool hustlers, and other adorable low-lifes (or low-lives), but a moment’s thought about the purposes actually routinely served by a typical Anglospheric street (which is perforce the only genre of street of interest to us) will suffice to convince the thinker thereof that the activities of such low-lifes or –lives are really quite marginal to the mainstream of Anglospheric street life.  Throughout the Anglosphere the streets are in fact prevailingly inhabited by owner-conveying automobiles and publicly owned passenger conveyances (i.e., buses), which are in turn prevailingly inhabited by respectable people going to and from their places of official and legal employment; if one extends the purview of the streets to their adjacent sidewalks or pavements, one still finds their ambulant cargo of low-lifes (or -lives) tidily outnumbered by their A.C. of nice little old ladies and brolly-wielding stockbrokers.  Such that when a person avers, as Bob Hoskins averred on Desert Island Discs, that he picked up this or that criminal or demi-mondial way of speaking in or from the streets, he must be understood as having deliberately sought out and imitated a non-representative minuscule minority of the street’s inhabitants, and is no more to be taken seriously as a man who simply absorbed the Strassengeist through his pores than would be a gentleman who claimed to represent the voice of the street in emitting nothing from his mouth and larynx but the squeaks of rats or the coos of pigeons.  In Bob Hoskins we are (sic on the present tense for obvious reasons) dealing with a man who grew up speaking like tens of millions of other Britons from Abderdeen to Penzance, and upon considering a career as an actor found that being a generic Brit was not going to get him very far.  And so he adopted with a vengeance the local accent that he could most plausibly (albeit pathetically implausibly) pass off as his own–viz. the hyper-kitschy East London accent of Eliza Doolittle.  Had he grown up in Salford he doubtlessly would have clung as inextricably and remorselessly to the equally hyper-kitschy Manchester accent of Daphne Moon (albeit that as Daphne Moon is an invention of the 1990s, he would have been a Daphne Moon avant la lettre).  And the Anglospheric movie and television-viewing public has suffered horribly in consequence.  Thanks to Hoskins’s Iago’s costermongerish oral shenanigans the BBC Shakespeare version of Othello is utterly unwatchable despite a splendid portrayal of the Moor by Anthony Hopkins (although truth to tell, the ludicrously oversized metal codpiece Hopkins is obliged to wear throughout is an even more powerful detractor from his performance).  It must be remembered, when watching any realization of a Shakespeare play dating from the past sixty years, that aside from a couple of dozen lines in King Lear and Henry V, the Bard never distinguishes characters by regional dialect, and that accordingly any actor who speaks his lines in an accent associated with a particular region is taking liberties with the part assigned to him.  In both semantic and prosodic terms Iago’s English is of course much earthier than Othello’s: he talks about baser things than Othello (King Stephen’s trousers, the beast with two backs, etc.) in diction that is generally less elevated and in rhythms and cadences that are generally less sonorous, less “singing,” than those of his boss.  But the Iagoan English idiom is not a whit less grammatical than the Othellan; nor is it marked by any orthographical or typographical peculiarities suggestive of non-standard pronunciation, such that there is really no philological warrant for making Iago talk in any manner remotely redolent of the so-called street, and such being the case the Iago of Micheál MacLiammóir, who in Orson Welles’s 1952 version speaks his lines in a sort of evil Hollywood Roman emperor’s accent, is much more credible than Hoskins’s despite its absurdly over-the-top campness.  After all, a baddie who talks like an evil Hollywood Roman emperor might just be pretentious and fastidious enough to try to do our hero in by means of a complicated hands-free plot, whereas a baddie who talks like a twopenny-halfpenny east-London roughneck will probably settle for personally dispatching him with a lead pipe to the back of the neck.  Hoskinsian dialectal false pedantry has since spread to virtually all so-called period productions for the stage and screen.  In any realization of a literary text written before the age of recorded sound (or in any of those lamentable made-from-scratch spectacles likewise set in the pre-gramophonic era), there is a mandatorily sharp and impenetrable division between the English spoken by the so-called ruling elites and that spoken by the so-called common people.  The elites must speak in some absurdly stilted caricature of RP (one that grows less plausible by the year as the native speakers of RP die off and are replaced by native speakers of cod regional accents who cannot utter ten consecutive words without letting slip a glottal stop or long-u-for-short-u-substitution); the so-called common people must speak in an abject, phoneme-perfect reproduction of the late-twentieth or early twenty-first century accent of the county or burg in which the drama takes place.  Naturally the meta-moral gist of the dramaturgy can be radically skewed at the flip of a switch, so to speak, by such linguistic bifurcation: if, say, a clergyman is regarded by the director (or whoever else is in charge) as an ally of the awful ruling elites, the actor playing him will be instructed to speak in stilted RP; if, on the other hand, the so-called man of the cloth is regarded as a friend of the local pig-f**kers, his portrayer will be required to speak in the local Pigf**kerese.
“But if the author has given no indication of how the clergyman is supposed to speak, isn’t the director within his rights to make him speak however he likes?  Granted, the clergyman needn’t speak with a regional accent, but he must speak in some manner, just as the lady of the house need not wear a yellow dress but she must wear a dress of some color. Isn’t the assigning of a regional accent to a character exactly like the assigning of any other detail not specified in the text?”
No, because in the case of costumes, interior décor, and the like, we have the objects themselves or reliable likenesses of them to draw upon, whereas in the case of the modes of speaking we have nothing to go on but the text, and if the text does not make any sort of fuss about accents, how can one be faithful to it—or to the historical actuality of which it is a trace--by introducing such a fuss into its realization?  Consider as an example of the deleterious effects of dialectal overdetermination the 2003 National Theatre production of She Stoops to Conquer, a 1773 comedy by Samuel Johnson’s friend Oliver Goldsmith.  The play is set “in an old-fashioned house” whose cartographic coordinates are never specified, but which we learn is somewhere “in the country” from the very first piece of dialogue [Mrs Hardcastle addressing Mr Hardcastle], from which we also learn that the “town” that is to be contrasted with the country is London.  In principle the house could be in any non-High Street-including place in England; in all plausibility it is in some rural area nearer to London than to one of the four or five large (population: 15,000+) English provincial cities—Bristol, Norwich, Birmingham, York, and possibly one other whose bigness I am less certain of—Carlisle, say, or Newcastle.  A spot in one of the Home Counties is most likely, but a spot in Devonshire or Oxfordshire is certainly not out of the question.  A spot in Staffordshire or Yorkshire, on the other hand, is pretty darn well near to being out of the question, because in those counties “the town” would be Birmingham or York, and London when not called by name would be known as “the capital.”  Hence there really is no warrant for making the inhabitants of the house talk markedly differently from their visitors from London.  And hence, further, if one is going for plumb-dead historical accuracy, one is probably best advised to make the entire cast talk in the rhoticized RP light or tee-ified standard American pronunciation that I am recommending as a present-day Anglophone norm, with a very slight tilt in the West-Countryish direction (i.e., towards the oo-ifiying of short ‘u’; e.g., the booking of buck, and the oi-ifying of long ‘i’; e.g. the toyifing of tie) for the natives.  You who insist on seeing everything through the vomit-gray lens of the C-word see, the Hardcastles were not of a different class than their London-genetic visitors Mr. Marlow and Mr. Hastings; rather, they were members of the same class who happened to be living in a place to which news from London was lamentably slow in coming.  Accordingly, the play has fish of a much different and very probably much bigger nature to fry than the Hardcastles’ pronunciation of English; hence its satire—to the limited extent that it is directed at the Hardcastles at all—is directed not at their inadequate use of words but at their inadequate knowledge of things.  So Mr. Hardcastle bores Marlow with his tales of the Battle of Belgrade, which though it occurred long before Marlow was born happens to be the last event of public interest Mr. Hardcastle remembers.  So Mrs. Hardcastle evinces her ignorance of London geography and its apportionment of couturial prestige by proudly boasting of having learned of the latest fashions from “the two Miss Ricketts of Crooked Lane,” and Mr. Hastings twits her for this ignorance by lumping Tower Wharf in with Ranelagh and St. James in the catalogue of places he says he assumes she has been “bred all [her] life in.”   But the powers that were behind the 2003 National Theatre production evidently were not governed by considerations of historical accuracy; rather, they were governed by the assumption that ‘the country’ was a stand-in for the earthiest, naffest, downmarketest spot in England--and so they treated the Hardcastles as though they were the most complacent and poorest-heeled tenants of a council estate in beautiful downtown Birmingham of 2003.  And by way of highlighting the contrast between country and city they gave Marlow and Hastings accents and attitudes that would make the present Duke of Edinburgh call for a round of spliffs [cf. Saxondale, natch].  Accordingly, the spectator, far from seeing the match between Harlow and Miss Hardcastle as one made in heaven between two social equals and merely temporarily preempted by a completely fortuitous misunderstanding—a misunderstanding admittedly difficult to communicate to the present age in which commercial and residential real estate are clearly distinguished from each other by way of flagrantly conspicuous and unequivocal signage—is compelled to regard it as a case of equally (and flagrantly) repellent opposites attracting.
But although the worst of the Caledonian-style corruption of the general English standard has taken firmest hold in England, this corruption has not in recent decades been without its exponents and abettors here in the States.   Here-er in Baltimore, for example, there is an accent-cum-pseudo dialect that for the past forty or so years the local heritage industry has been puffing as a veritable language unto itself as organically inalienable from the soil of Baltimore City as Aramaic was (or is reported to have been) from that of first-century-AD Nazareth.  Its only genuinely distinctive characteristics are purely phonological and consist in a particularly obnoxiously over-orotund pronunciation of the long u and o sounds.   How specifically Baltimorean even these characteristics are is a matter for debate—certainly one hears them emanating from the mouths of speakers resident as far north as Philadelphia and as far south as Richmond, Virginia.  But even more damningly, there is little reason to believe that a plurality, let alone a majority, of the city’s inhabitants have ever spoken it, or that any of the city’s inhabitants spoke anything remotely corresponding to it as recently as three-quarters of a century ago.  If you don’t believe me, just take an aural gander at any 30-second segment of the ample archive of spoken reminiscences of H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), a man whose connection to Baltimore is so firm, so adamantine, that it makes apple pie collapse into a black hole of shame at the thought of the comparative tenuity of its own connection to America.  The dude, sage, or gentleman talks (or talked) exactly like the beloved Hollywood actor James Stewart of It’s a Wonderful Life and Vertigo fame, a man who hailed not from Baltimore but from Indiana, Pennsylvania (an exurb of Pittsburgh) and signalized himself as an indefatigable portrayer of Everyamericanman, a portrayal one of whose cardinal desiderata was not to sound anything like Anyamericanmanfromanyspecificplace.  (It is interesting, if only to a loony, to note that Gene Kelly, the classic cinema’s other great Everyamericanman, who in the 1960 film-à-clef Inherit the Wind played Mencken’s clefeme E. K. Hornbeck, also hailed from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.)  Now I would not for a moment wish to be held to be asserting that Baltimore of the very early twentieth century was solely or even prevailingly populated by Jimmy Stewart impersonators avant la lettre, but I do think it is reasonable to infer that the idiolect of a man as closely associated with a certain locality as Mencken is with Baltimore could not have clashed very stridently with the collective linguistic habitus of that locale without having been signalized quite conspicuously as a foreignism--i.e., as one of the few things that set him apart from his fellow Thatlocalitians--as Mencken’s idiolect never has been.  Clearly in Baltimore of the very early twentieth century it was considered perfectly normal to talk exactly like Jimmy Stewart.  Clearly the early twenty-first century speakers-cum-boosters of the so-called Baltimore dialect, like certain of their analogues in the U.K. (I am thinking more of the Ian MacMillans, the professional communitarian hayseeds, than of the Bob Hoskinses, the professional individualistic street toughs), are the descendants of opportunistic geographical solipsists-cum-megalomaniacs, of a handful of low cunning-imbued imbeciles who by sheer force of loquaciously priding themselves on their own linguistic peculiarities and projecting them on to their semi-immediate environment managed to bring a majority (albeit by no means the totality) of the world at large round to sharing their delusion.  I can even imagine a kind of creation myth for the germination of the Baltimorean pseudo-dialect.  A fellow who grows up in a Baltimore-sited house in which everyone unaccountably says bleew for blue and ayow-cean for ocean and assumes by default that this is the way everyone says these words. much after the manner of that hockey fan who threw waffles at insufficiently attentive home-team players because in his family the waffles had displaced the coffee as the breakfast staple one was expected to wake up and smell.  Then, ca. 1934 (or perhaps ca. 1917, for as will be seen, this creation myth must hail from without the confines of the Prohibition micro-epoch), he goes on a trip to another part of the country, steps into a bar, and orders a Pabst Bleew Ribbon and an ayow-cean breeze.  The fellow at the next stool over then says to him in Jimmy Stewart-esque standard American English, “Say, pal, you’ve got a mighty strange way of saying blue and ocean.  Where are you from?” And at that moment in his head is firmly implanted the conviction that bleew and ayow-cean are the way all Baltimoreans say blue and ocean, and upon returning home he starts “correcting” his fellow townspeople whenever they pronounce these two words in the standard Jimmy Stewart-esque fashion.  “What are you,” he stroppily blusters to each and every one of them on these occasions, “some kind of [popular nickname for a native of whichever region the just-mentioned bar was sited in]?”  The stronger-minded and more rational—if not necessarily the more resourceful–majority of his interlocutors simply laugh at his remonstration and go on speaking like Jimmy Stewart, intellectually equipped as they are to juxtapose the two of the remonstration with the two of its unprecedentedness in all their lives as Baltimoreans, and therefrom derive the four that this fellow is suffering from a backlog of excrement.  But a small but decidedly dependable minority will stop short at the attribution of foreignness and in their horror at the thought of being taken for one “who is not from around these parts” will begin to mimic the remonstrator’s pronunciation and go on to “correct” other Baltimoreans’ pronunciations of long u and o (which have long since been extrapolated as shibboleths from bleew and ayow-cean according to the universally accepted maxim of “When in doubt, think inductively”).  Because in each case of remonstration, the rebuffers tidily outnumber the acceptors, the exponents of the freakish pronunciations never become a plurality, let alone a majority, but eventually one of them makes it into a position of some local political influence, and from that point onwards, the typical resident of the Baltimore metropolitan has been doomed to a career of apologizing to tourists for his standard American English pronunciation of every word containing a long u or o that he ever utters.   If the Stateside pseudo-dialect industry confined itself to howlers of the Baltimorean long u and o variety, it could be pardoned (however reluctantly) by a rational person inasmuch as it would be boosting some empirically extant practice at least vaguely deserving of a specific geographical affiliation-cum-designation.  “Granted,” the rational person could say in that case, “the long u and o mispronouncers have not been around for very long; granted, they are not confined to the city of Baltimore, or even the state of Maryland; granted, there are not actually very many of them—still, it must be admitted that they are around now; that their numbers, while not large enough to rival those of the local standard American English speakers, are substantial; and that while one often encounters them in places many dozens of miles from downtown Baltimore, there is a distance therefrom beyond which one may safely count on never encountering them, at least not among the residents: one may certainly pass an entire evening in a Main Street greasy spoon or juke joint in Rocky Mount, North Carolina or Blue Ash, Ohio without overhearing a single long u or o pronounced po-Batlimorskii.  All that having been admitted, why not let them have their fun(—even if,” he adds in an undertone through gritted teeth, “it obliges the rest of us to feel like pinstripe suit and power tie-clad crashers of a Halloween party?).”  Because, I reply to this rational but evidently insufficiently informed gentleman or lady, the madineros-cum-capitanos of the Stateside pseudo-dialect industry pseudo have proved not to be content with empirically extant practices at least vaguely deserving of specific geographical affiliation-cum-designations, and have moved on to claiming empirically extant practices deserving no specific geographical affiliation-cum-designation as their own—in other words, to inferring and publicizing the inference that any mode of pronouncing or turn of phrase common in their respective localities is peculiar to those respective localities.  Thus or in consequence, I have come to meet Cincinnatians asserting to me that all’s you got to do for all you’ve to do and dis and dat for this and that are peculiarly Cincinnatian; to cast my eyes upon a T-shirt representing the pronunciation of Did you eat yet as Jeet jet as peculiarly Pittsburghian; and to spectate on a movie (Alexander Payne’s Election) implying that you bet, perhaps the most pan-Anglospherically beloved and comprehensible locution next to OK, is materially inalienable from the municipality of Omaha.  Thus or in consequence, and most personally dishearteningly so, I have had to put up with and answer for the absurd fiction that hon, an established pan-Anglospheric abbreviation of the hyper-antient term of endearment, honey (as in “Honey, you will be welcome in Cyprus”) is the invention and exclusive copyright of Baltimoreans.  A popular local restaurant (the Café Hon) and an annual street festival (The Hon Festival) brazenly advertise the moronic misappropriation, for which I am obliged to apologize and, what is worse, account at great length, to every out-of-towner I encounter, as in the following dialogue: “Out-of-Towner: So why is it called the Café Hon/Hon Festival?  The Present Writer, ever-so-desperately disingenuously: Well, because hon is short for honey.  OOTer: But why name a restaurant after the short form of honey? Is it in honor of some person especially dear to the owner?  TPR: No, it’s in honor of the owner’s delusion that nobody has ever addressed anybody as hon anywhere but here in Baltimore.”  Seriously, in the public interest I believe I must get this out there, as they say, that I must do my admittedly feeble best to make it known to these people, these ill-minded profiteers of metastasized civic mindedness, that their ludicrous foist is not just some harmless bit of fun, that for every dollar it hoovers into the tills of their cash registers it easily occasions an hour of grief and embarrassment to one of their fellow-citizens.  This Baltimorean apotheosization of hon as a kind of civic divinity illustrates with damning trenchancy and succinctness the pseudo-dialect industry’s combination of cupidity and stupidity (or perhaps slothfulness), its uncurbable and insatiable questing for new bits of prosaic tat to hawk as local colo(u)r, and its incapacity (or perhaps disinclination), once it has found such a bit, to do the most niggling amount of fact-checking towards establishing whether it is genuinely (or even pseudo-genuinely) local in provenance or not.  Some dozens of my Earth pages ago, I remarked that the preeminent character quality of the speakers of non-standard accents in the television and cinema of my childhood was a certain shiftiness or tendency to hucksterism, and their counterparts in the rightly called real world have turned out to be signalized by this very same quality.  Whenever I am unfortunate enough to be obliged to interact viva voce with a speaker of the Baltimore pseudo-accent (I apologize for the severe clunkiness of interact viva voce with, but like—or so I flatter myself—most of my clunky formulations it has been chosen only after I have judiciously considered and rejected the obvious pithier alternatives –in this case I can’t say converse, because the interaction never rises to the level of a conversation; nor can I say talk because I hardly ever if ever at all do more than a tiny fraction of the talking), I  find myself subjected to a kind of whinging, hectoring lecture-cum-sales pitch, in the crassest and most literal sense of a discourse that has the confounded presumption to try to dictate to me how I should spend my own money.  Admittedly these people are not always expecting me to give the money directly to them (although much more than often enough they are) qua ultimate recipients-cum-beneficiaries of my largesse, but when not doing so they are expecting me to shell out for something that in one way or another benefits them qua shills for-cum-shareholders in the Baltimore local heritage industry–some local charity, or some local sports franchise, or some local festival (e.g., the above-mentioned Hon Festival), or a restaurant that supposedly deserves my custom just because it happens to be here in Baltimore and not in Kuala Lumpur or Walla Walla, Washington.  “I hope you’ll forgive the interruption of one who insists on seeing everything through the vomit-gray lens of the C-word” the long-silent DGR (not to be confused with his probable replacement, the more recently heard Rational Person) ever-so-gently butts in, “but this scenario that you have just adumbrated, one in which the speaker of the local dialect perpetually finds himself in the position of the dunner and you perpetually find yourself in the position of the dunnee, does ineluctably imply a relation between a materially better-off party (the dunnee, i.e., you) and a materially worse-off party (the dunner, i.e., the speaker of the local dialect), and thereby equally ineluctably imply that your aversion to the speakers of the local dialect perforce arises from your fear of them qua representatives-cum-embodiments of the underprivileged (or, dare I even say it, the working c***s?), qua threateners of your at-minimum upper-upper-middle-c***s privilege.”  You’re as myopically loyal to that vomit-gray lens of yours as a dog is to his or her favo(u)rite masturbating post, aren’t you DGR?  You seem to be assuming, with a an apparent wrong-headedness or lack of wordly wisdom too sub-compos mentis or sub-Candidian to warrant castigation, that it is both logically and materially impossible to ask for something from somebody who has fewer things (or a smaller stock of worthwhile things) than you do—this in the ineluctable teeth of the refutation of your assumption afforded by the entire history of advertising, a history dominated by the efforts of the rich to obtain the resources of the poor.  And indeed, whenever I picture to myself a typical local pseudo-dialect-spewing Baltimorean, the image that immediately springs to mind is that of one of those ambulance chasers and loan sharks whose faces pullulate in every conceivable commercial setting in this metropolis—from television screens to billboards to telephone directory covers--in other words, the very type and epitome of endlessly covetous wealth, a fellow (or fellowess) who has not washed a single one of his (or her) own shirts in the past thirty years, who vacations on a different continent each summer, who has a skybox at Camden Yards, who dines at the Black Olive or the Charleston after every game, &c.  Such rogues may have very little class in the modern colloquial uncountable sense, but they most certainly are not of the lower class or even of the middle class in any but the most hopelessly anachronistic sense of the term: to the extent that the ruling or upper class are those ‘with access to the means of production,’ these clowns are members of it.  “But surely these so-called ambulance chasers and loan sharks are not proper, full-fledged, tenured members of the ruling class, but parvenu gatecrashers, the sons (and occasional daughters) of longshoremen, steel- founders, car factory assembly-line workers, et al., who speak the local patois because they simply cannot help it, and who are treated as mere lackeys by the core membership, those ‘to the manner born,’ who tuttingly depreciate them over their Stilton and port like so many Gore Vidal or Bill Buckley (or George Plimpton) impersonators the moment they leave the room.”  To the contrary, old fruit: they are the furthest imaginable things from parvenus.  The proof—readily discernable to one who has lived here as long as I have--is in the relatively fine print of Baltimore Sun and City Paper articles, in which one often comes across concatenations of the familiar ambulance-chasing and loan-sharking surnames preceded by diverse forenames—palpable Edda-esque demonstrations that the loan-sharking and ambulance-chasing concerns are very much venerable family businesses, handed down from generation to generation, as they say.  And even if they were by and large the children of the classic proletariat it would make no difference, off-the-hook-letting-wise in the linguistic department, as far as I am concerned, for one must remember that I myself am of classic proletarian parentage.  “Ah, yes, but without the benefit of a first-class elite university education…”  …I would be speaking and writing exactly as I am speaking and writing now, for I spoke and wrote exactly as I am speaking and writing now at the age of 14 (there are tapes and school exercises to prove it), when I had only the benefit of the earlier phases of a fourth-class public (in the American sense) grammar-school education.  “Erm, well, but of course in a modern post-industrial economy the classic proletarian trades can hardly be regarded as the métiers  of the truly underprivileged…” Note well, Rational Person, the serpent-like (or, yes, satanic) shiftiness of the classic DGR: two minutes ago he was trying to exculpate the ambulance chasers and loan sharks by pairing them up with steelworking and longshoremanizing dads, and now he is trying to inculpate me with the identical genealogy.  Seriously, DGR (whom I hereby unceremoniously rechristen YFC), how low or how humble does one have to be, how sub-dwarfish is the limbo stick beneath one needs must pass, in order to pass muster or cut mustard as one of the underprivileged in your eyes?  If ownership of property tout court suffices to disqualify one from filling out the non-commissioned ranks of the underprivileged, then poor-stroke-doughty Mr. Macqueen, Johnson’s perfect English-speaking host in the BFE-esque ex-ex-ex-urban Scottish Highlands must content himself with supping, however Lenten-ly, at the officers’ mess.  But surely by any rational criterion Mr. Macqueen must be regarded as at least relatively underprivileged—surely the fact that he is living in a stinking dirt-floored hut in the dead bull’s-anus (not to be confused with the dead-bull’s anus) of nowhere nets him a thousand times more ducats in the underprivileged column than his ownership of the hut does in the privileged column.  And if this Mr. Macqueen could speak perfect standard English way back where and way back then, what is to prevent a Glaswegian bank manager, or a Mancunian chiropodist, or a Baltimorean ambulance chaser, or a taxi-driving community college lecturer, from doing so now?  What if not a loathsome, epi-epi-epi-dermis-shallow, tearlessly sentimental pseudo-attachment to a dead, pickled, freeze-dried pseudo-collective whose most beloved-cum-venerable member one would sell to the Gestapo (I mean the actual Gestapo, the state police force of Hitler’s Germany) for a pair of tenth-row tickets to one’s local hosting of a touring production of Wicked?  Seriously, dude or dudess; sir, madam, or mademoiselle: if in City A in Country B you are living exactly the same kind of life lived in City C in Country D by someone else—if you and this other person are both business-casual wearing mid-managerial office schlubs, if you both love to take in a boxed-set disc of Breaking Bad or the latest season of House of Whips at the weekend, if you both go out for Ethiopian or Malaysian or Javanese food twice a month, if you’re both on a Byzantine regimen of so-called statins and beta blockers and antidepressants–then what possible rationale or excuse can there be for your talking any differently from him or her?  “Well,” the DGR—now a pitiful hard-bitten, droopy-tailed ghost of his or her former self--feebly, mopily but for all that obligatorily suggests, “one’s lack of educational opportunity, obviously.”  Again I must emphasize: the preeminent so-called educational opportunity is afforded by the ordinary and universally available media of television, radio, print journalism, and bargain basement-cheap lexicography.  Do your best to talk like the nice man on the news program(me), and whenever you are in doubt about how to use or pronounce a word look it up in the dictionary: for decades (or at least a decade and three-quarters) this was the linguistic policy adhered to by at least a substantial minority of children in all so-called classes in England, and to this day it is the linguistic policy adhered to by a substantial majority of children in all so-called classes (and indeed so-called ethnicities) in the United States.  Mastery of English of either the standard American or RP light variety is not some arcane, eldritch, inordinately complicated, and outrageously expensive skill accessible only to a privileged elite; it bears absolutely no comparison to polo or ballroom dancing, or [????] (not being a member of the ruling or upper class I am genuinely stumped for the rhetorically mandated third example); and it perhaps bears most fruitful comparison to such simple, exoteric, and negligibly priced practices as showering, tooth-brushing, and clean underwear-donning: yes, it has to be learned, but the tutelage is well within virtually everybody’s reach.  “B-b-but how,” blubbers YFC, “is one to learn these underratedly intricate practices if one’s parents never shower, brush their teeth, or put on clean underwear?”  Do one’s parents keep one locked in the basement and incommunicado from one’s birth onwards like that horrible man in Austria who was found out about five years ago?  If they don’t, then one really has no excuse, for from one’s birth onwards the world outside the family dwelling will be giving one a veritable year-round how-to course on all three of these practices.  I really cannot comprehend this modern (ca. post-1960) fetishization of the family qua sole (or perhaps rather joint, as the school is likewise universally fetishized in this capacity) effective conduit of so-called life skills, which would be less galling if it had not sprouted up in tandem with the contradictory and equally fatuous notion that a person could be emotionally scarred for life by the most gentle brush with a piece of the world outside the family dwelling.  None of us is obliged or compelled by any authority to adopt the habits of anyone, no matter how much legal power he or she may have over us or how large a proportion of our time he or she may spend in our immediate propinquity.  To be sure, we are not capable of fashioning an entire Dasein-cum-modus vivendi on our own out of whole cloth, but the patterns, the modes of behavior to be imitated, may be acquired from any number of sources, however remote in provenance or brief our encounter with them.  Why, I remember how a fairly remote and certainly very brief encounter set me on a path that has spared the world an immeasurable if not necessarily enormous amount of misery at my hands, or rather (and quite naturally, as you will see), lips.  Nearly thirty years ago, in the middle of 1986 at the latest, I happened to have a radio (whether it was mine or my mum and dad’s or my podiatrist’s must remain lost in the so-called mists of time) tuned to one of our metropole’s (or, in the language of the biz, market’s) local talk radio-formatted stations, or phone-in program hosted or presented by one David Fowler.  Mr. Fowler was rather uncharacteristically monologizing (i.e., instead of phone-chatting with listeners, the only alternative modus presentendi of a guestless talk show host) on the subject of class in the colloquial non-countable sense referenced above.  There were, he opined or conjectured, certain utterances, certain boilerplate formulas that, for all their ready-to-handness, rife employment, and apparent innocuousness, a person with true class would never avail himself of; among these, he passionately averred (i.e., not merely opined or conjectured) was the water cooler-side chinwageme of You look tired.  How, he fairly table-thumpingly queried, could anybody with the slightest bit of class say such a thing? How dare anyone assume that a person’s disheveled appearance is a sign of mere physical fatigue?  Perhaps this person has suffered some great loss, some imponderable bereavement, that has prevented them from assuming their usual everyday mien of indomitable chirpiness.  Nobody with the merest scintilla of class could ever dream of saying “You look tired” to anyone, under any circumstances.  And I can and shall swear that from that day onwards I have never told anybody that he or she looked tired, be he or she as apparently knackered as a vat of dead quinqagenarian Clydesdales.  Or to adduce an exemplum closer to topical home (albeit one less poignant, and therefore only in second place): as a nipper of eight or nine, I noticed that the actor playing Gollum  in my LP of the soundtrack of the Rankin-Bass animated film adaptation of The Hobbit pronounced the word eggs with an ordinary short ‘e’ sound (the sound of the ‘e’ in bed [I know I have described the vowel sounds before, but it seems worth doing again because the terminology is both imprecise and imperfectly standardized and therefore easy to forget] and thereupon reflected that I had often heard the word alternatively pronounced with a long ‘a’ sound (i.e., the sound of the name of the letter ‘a’ in our language).  The pronunciation with the ‘e’ did not sound wrong, but nor (or neither) did the pronunciation with the ‘a,’ so I looked egg up in a dictionary (most likely Volume I of my family’s Funk ‘n’ Wagnalls two-volume one [purchased at two or three dollars a volume from our local chain supermarket branch]) and discovered that the only pronunciation given therein was the one with the ‘e.’ And so thereafter I took care only ever to pronounce egg with an ‘e’ sound.  Note here, DGR, that I did not simply reflexively embrace the ‘e’ sound merely because it was being spoken by an actor on the soundtrack of a famous animated movie—that I did not immediately adopt it out of a servile determination to talk posh come Haitch or Haitch Dubya.  No: I referred it to an impartial authority.  The DGR/YFC, regaining a modicum of his former c**ksureness: “You mean a so-called impartial authority whose verdict ever-so-conveniently coincided with the posh actor’s pronunciation, such that this disingenuously bargain-priced dictionary may be safely regarded as an ideological organ of the poshility.”  Oh, I don’t think it—or, rather, they (i.e., bargain-priced dictionaries in the aggregate)—can be regarded as such passive organs of social control as that.  In proof of this counter-conjecture, I present to you yet another account of a Rankin Bass Hobbit-catalyzed phonological quest: the Gandalf on this recording was voiced by none other than John Huston, the legendary director of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Moby Dick, Under the Volcano (not that this last one was out at the time, but s*d it—I’ve got the obligatory three in wax), &c.  He played the part with such gravitas and authority (not to mention class [yes, I am comparing you unfavorably to him, Sir Ian]) that it was impossible not to be seduced by his idiolect to the point of feeling slightly ashamed of any facet of one’s own idiolect that deviated from it.  But regrettably, and highly puzzlingly, the one facet thereof that did differ therefrom did not seem to differ from that of any other person I had ever heard speak.  The differed-from idiolecteme was Mr. Huston’s pronunciation of the first and sole stressed vowel of certain (or perhaps all) words ending (as written or printed) in easure—e.g. or perhaps i.e., measure, treasure [yes, yes, yes, as in …of the Sierra Madre {it would indeed take a titanium scimitar to cut the irony of the director of such a classic’s mispronouncing its title}], and pleasure.  Naturally one hoped that this was a perfectly acceptable pronunciation one had overlooked rather than a strictly idiolectal tic.  But the verdict of the dictionaries was decidedly stacked against it: exactly one of them—a paperback sub-collegiate abridgment of the Merriam Webster—gave the Hustonian pronunciation as an alternative to the short-e pronunciation, and the rest (meaning perhaps as many as ten), as with egg, gave the short-e pronunciation alone.  Had there been even two dictionaries recommending the Hustonian pronunciation, one would have cheerfully adopted it, and no-less cheerfully weathered the skeptical or derisive looks with which it doubtlessly would have been greeted by each and every one of one’s peers and elders.  But having received only one lexicographical endorsement, it seemed a bit iffy.  Perhaps this selective ay for e switch was a strict idiolecteme, a turn of speech that was engaged in by Mr. Huston alone out of pure perversity or motor-neurological dysfunction, and that had made it into the sub-collegiate Merriam Webster only because its editor-in-chief was a rabid John Huston fan, or had been bought off by the John Huston Appreciation Society (who naturally would have gone on to buy off the editors-in-chief of more prestigious lexicographical concerns had their naturally woefully exiguous treasury [pr. traysury, natch] permitted).  And such possibly being the case, I could not countenance this switch’s assimilation to my own idiolect, boundless though my admiration for Gandalf as a sage for all ages and Mr. Huston as a grand old man of the classic American cinema was.  It was only some two decades later, with the release of the Cohen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, starring a maysure-saying Tommy Lee Jones, that I was vouchsafed even tentative proof that Mr. Huston’s selective maysure, etc.-saying had not been a personal quirk.  But that proof was quickly (i.e., within months) made as firm as it could be made by ex-Vice President Dick Cheney’s pronunciation of measure as maysure in some bit of congressional testimony.  At last, I concluded, upon triangulating Huston’s [some ideally German neologism denoting a one’s habitus in relation to where one is from (in two or more senses) and where one hopes to be (ditto)] with Cheney’s, the aysure-for-esure swap was some sort of niche sub-dialecteme confined to certain self-consciously rugged-individualist types in the Midwest of the first two thirds of the twentieth century, and hence ultimately still inappropriable by me.
This last point brings me to the nub, gist, and pivot-point of what I hope will at long last be my peroration; namely, that the fallacy and so-called Achilles(’[s]) heel at the heart (or, rather, heel) of today’s ludicrously anachronistic proliferation of pseudo-dialects is ultimately epistemological in character.  The assumption implicitly made or as, they say, tacitly acknowledged, both by every exponent of a pseudo-dialect and every interlocutor with such an exponent is that the exponent is though not uniquely then nevertheless highly restrictively entitled to expound his or her pseudo-dialect because he enjoys a highly restrictive (albeit not unique) knowledge of the grammatical, phonological, and lexicological peculiarities of that pseudo-dialect, an enjoyment vouchsafed him or her in virtue of his nativity in this or that provincial hole or from a womb allegedly bound in hyper-Promethean chains to this or that socioeconomic niche.  But this assumption could not be wider of the mark.  The truth is that all of us Anglophones are acquainted--in varying degrees of congnoscento-hood to be sure—with various linguistic components of various pseudo-dialects that are allegedly inalienably alien to us.  Rare indeed may be the San Antonionian or Mancunian who can do an impeccable Fran Dresher impression, but Anglophones who know that people from Long Island are supposed to give anomalous emphasis to the g in the name of their native physical geographeme are every bit as common in Alice Springs and Calcutta as in Port Washington and Stony Brook.  Such being the case, it is hard to see how a native Long Islander can be said to constitute a member of an in-crowd vis-à-vis the Long Island pseudo-dialect, and thence equally hard to see how a native Long Islander can lay legitimate claim to any sort of proprietary relation to that pseudo-dialect, for in linguistic matters to know is already to own in the fullest intelligible and pragmatic sense.  Even supposing all my case-histories and creation myths in attestation of the factitiousness of the world’s most celebrated pseudo-dialects were pure rubbish, poppycock, and balderdash, even supposing the world’s present stock of pseudo-dialects were genuine dialects that arose autochthonously tens of millennia ago from the living soil of Paleolithic Glasgow, Baltimore, Poughkeepsie, Taxidriverland etc., there would still be no rational or just grounds for restricting their appropriation—whether wholesale or piecemeal—by people hailing from other places and social strata.  A dialecteme belongs no less and no more to the so-called outsider who has become acquainted with it than it does to the so-called insider, who after all has likewise had to acquire it, along with every other characteristic of the language or languages he customarily speaks and writes.  It is perhaps fruitful towards bringing home the ineluctable truth of the immediately previous assertion to consider the parallels between a dialecteme and the smallest unit of what is known as a speaker’s or writer’s style or idiom (not to be confused with his or her idiolect, with which it admittedly overlaps to a large extent).  Certainly no analysis of the present writer’s style or idiom could be called comprehensive that did not mention his predilection for the inkhorn word heterodox, which he, a.k.a. I, believe(s) I first encountered one score and two or three years ago in Oliver Goldsmith’s novel The Vicar of Wakefield.  It is quite likely that nobody in the present Anglosophere uses heterodox more often than I do.  But for all that, I did not coin the word, and I therefore have no right to scold other users of it as plagiarists—even if I can demonstrate that they owe their acquaintance with the word to something I have written.  It would be equally licentious in me to restrict authentic heterodox-ical competence to people who like me became acquainted with heterodox from The Vicar of Wakefield, to drink smug healths to these heterodox users as fellow Wakefieldians and to denounce all those who first saw the word elsewhere as heterodox heterodox users.  Yet it is this second move, egregiously barmy as it sounds and in fact is, that every exponent of a pseudo-dialect makes each and every time he or she utters or writes a pseudo-dialecteme in an attitude of entitlement, and whoever refuses to challenge such egregrious barminess (and egregious bumptiousness) is effectively endorsing it as sanity (and civility).  I suppose my locus classicus-cum-pet bête noir among such pseudo-dialectemes is wee in the sense meaning small or tiny.  It is a word-cum-sense that I have known as long as I can remember—certainly much, much longer than I have known that wee can also signify an act of urination.  But as a non-Scotsperson I am prohibited from using wee in the small-signifying sense, whilst a Scotsperson is licensed to use wee in a manner that not only denotes diminutiveness but also a special degree and kind of insight into the supposedly special diminutiveness of the diminuted noun that is denied to the Sassenach in virtue of his or her erroneously imputed unawareness of the small-signifying sense.  A Scotsperson has merely to prefix wee to any noun to convey the impression—at least to the apparently inexhaustible pool of suckers comprised by Sassenachdom—that he or she and he or she alone (along, of course, with his or her five-million supposedly strong fellow-Caledonians) has discovered (whether truly or falsely [and most often it is falsely]) that it is not so big and high and mighty and powerful as it has been cracked up to be.  “Och, lookie there: it’s a wee tiger/sperm whale/intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile!” delightedly contemptuously gurgles the Scotsperson, apparently doing his or her utmost to restrain himself or herself from fearlessly chucking the colossally deadly wee-ified entity under its nearest quasi-equivalent to a chin, and simultaneously implying that you, the Sassenach, are nothing but a big, blubbering fearty for wanting to run for cover instead.  The Scotsperson may be half your age; he or she may not even have been a wee half-twinkle in each of her progenitors’ eyes when you learnt of wee’s synonymy with little, but your seniority is ineluctably trumped by his or her Scottishness; he or she can use wee at pleasure as a wee-ifying magic wand and you can use it, if ever or at all, only as the principal component in a mirth-annihilating Scrooge McDuck impression.  In the mouth of a Scotsperson wee has the same sort of flagrantly counterproductive, field-voiding power as talk of little boys playing cowboys and Indians with their toy guns does in the mouth of a woman.  The moment a man, in the course conversing with another man, raises his voice above a mutter or by any other means shows that he is less than completely satisfied with the sentiments of his interlocutor, any woman within earshot is within her rights to disparage the conference as yet another hyper-trivial instance of two little boys playing cowboys and Indians with with their toy guns, and thereby utterly annihilate the two dudes’ credibility in the eyes and ears of every third or higher party likewise privy to the chinwag.  The conversation need not be centered on some proverbially hardcore blokey area of interest like football, Star Wars, or train-spotting; it may indeed be vectored towards the most gynophilic solution to the most gynocentric topic imaginable–say, the liberalization of big businesses’s maternity leave policies, or the installation of dedicated women’s restrooms at a newly gender-integrated social club–and it is still automatically fair game for any woman’s detumescing cowboys and Indians pin-prick, merely because it is a conversation between two men.  But epistemologically speaking this pin-prick ought by no means to be a feminine prerogative; every man, and indeed every boy who has cast aside his material toy pistols and bows and arrows, knows that all masculine contention is as they say at some level (albeit often an egregiously trivial one) reducible to a conflict between little boys playing cowboys and Indians, that guns and arrows are makeshift substitutes for penises, and so forth.  If a man elects to be less than completely quiescent in response to another man’s attitude or assertion, it will not be because he is ignorant of the cowboys-and-Indians mini-conceit, but because he does not believe that it applies (except on an egregiously trivial level) to his and the other fellow’s present case.  Hence any adducing of that conceit, any out-pointing of it to him by anybody whomsoever, will be epistemologically superfluous and ought therefore to be refrained from by everybody whomsoever.  The same, mutatis mutandis, goes for the adducing or out-pointing of wee to a Sassenach by a Scotsperson: if the Sassenach insists on treating the object (or subject) under his or her consideration as a big and important one, there is absolutely no epistemological point in describing that object or subject as wee, because he already knows that wee means small or unimportant, and no insight can be afforded into the subject or object by the bare knowledge that some random third party regards it as small or unimportant.  “But,” righteous indignation-flushedly demurs the now thoroughly emboldened ex-DGR and present YFC, “in this case, we aren’t talking about some random third party, meaning a person who can have hailed from any Anglophone-inhabited place from Kilimanjaro to Kalamazoo; we are, rather, talking about a person who can only have come from a specific and determinate place and Volk, namely Scotland, and whose use of the tiny or indeed wee vocable wee is steeped, marinated, and basted in his or her experience of having grown up as a resident-cum-member of that place-cum-Volk.”  Yes: an experience that, as I have already pointed out, does not differ in any essential or non-superficial respect from that of having grown up anywhere else in the present-day Anglosphere and therefore cannot have imparted the wee-est soupçon of a semantic (or semiotic) difference to the Scotsperson’s understanding or mastery of wee.  When I am told by a Hellenist that in present-day Maryland the word catharsis means something radically different from what it meant in fourth century-B.C. Athens (Greece not Georgia), I readily believe this, because I know that the so-called cultural life of the average (and the wildly eccentric) fourth century-B.C. Athenian was radically different from the life of the average (and the wildly eccentric) twenty first century-A.D. Marylander, in ways too numerous and familiar to bear retailing here.  But the only radical differences I can think of between life in present-day Maryland and Scotland are not (so-called) cultural but natural-geographical, and specifically climatic (Maryland has a prevailingly humid subtropical climate, Scotland a prevailingly maritime one); and as Dr. Johnson has reminded us, in a civilized society the share played by the weather in the quotidian lives of its members verges on the nonexistent.  If the Scots have, say, some special covering for their shoes that allows them to trudge with more facility and safety through their uniquely Scottish peaty countryscapes yet renders it impossible for its wearer to take two non-face plant-terminating steps in succession in an English meadow or Kansas wheat field, then by all means let the word denoting that accessory be enrolled in the dictionaries as an official Scotticism (no, brogue is not the word), and let the Scots lord (or rather laird) it over us Sassenachs for never having enjoyed the full pleasure of its usufruct.  But by no means should they be suffered to keep wee out of the mitts and mouths of us Sassenachs, for whom wee-ness is as un-un-American as apple pie, or un-un-English as spotted dick, or un-un-Australian as throwing another shrimp on the barbie.  And the same prohibition on linguistic proscription should apply to the female taxi-drivers’ wearisomely obligatory ejaculations of girl! when speaking amongst themselves (yet within convenient earshot of a non-taxi-driving), the cockneys’ seemingly unchallengeable pseudo-monopoly on rhyming slang, the Yorkshireperson’s pseudo-Scandanavian reversed and de-th-ified pronunciation of the, and any other pseudo-dialecteme that any Anglophone happens to be lucky enough (or cursed enough) to get his or her mitts on (or, to describe the phenomenon more accurately, to be unable to get out of his or her head--not unlike a pop song or advertising jingle).  The entire field of Anglophone pseudodialectia ought to be regarded as a kind of aural analogue to a gigantic wardrobe stuffed with fancy dress, pantomime, or Halloween (q.v.) costumes.  Each of these costumes makes its wearer sound about as much like an empirical present-day would-be civilized (say) Baltimorean, Novocastrian, or East Londoner as a fancy dress/ pantomime/Halloween horse, dragon, or mummy costume makes its wearer look like a present-day horse, Komodo dragon, or mummy, and just like a fancy dress/pantomime/Halloween costume it ought to be available for occasional donning by any Anglophone who happens to take a shine to it.  The clinching word here is of no necessary course occasional, for in the ordinary quotidian round of business and pleasure the would-be civilized Anglophone should be speaking and writing the most geographically neutral form of English that the present stage of historical development permits—if a Yank, during that round he or she should be giving all his consonants and vowels save “t” and “a” their full and precise value, while dreaming of the day when he or she will be given permission to pronounce writer and rider uninterchangeably and know for a certainty whether aunt is a homophone of ant; if a Brit, during that round he or she should be giving all his vowels and consonants save “r” and “a” their full and precise value whilst (sic) dreaming of the day when he or she will be given permission to pronounce fah and far uninterchangeably, and know for a certainty whether to ejaculate “take that you bahstard!” or “take that, you baastard!” during his next fistfight.  Our goal—the goal of all would-be civilized or civilised Anglophones—should be something closely resembling that bit of the 1936 H. G. Wells-scripted movie Things to Come depicting the distant future, a scenario in which men in skirts stand with arms akimbo in amply afforested climate-controlled environments philosophizing to each other in perfect standard English, a scenario significantly centered on a character played by Raymond Massey, a Canadian who could switch from rhotic Stateside English to RP on a dime or shilling.  “And what in the meantime are we to do with those supposed boors who evince no interest in aiming for or at this scenario?”  Why, we are to deal with them exactly as we do the members of those subcultures whose raison d’être consists in dressing up as a squirrel, chipmunk, or other legendarily cute forest animal; or in sticking a pacifier in one’s mouth and voiding uninhibitedly into a diaper like a newborn infant–viz. by pouring unabashed disdain and ridicule upon them.  Oh, I know mainstream respectable sociology—an institution or practice that I take to be instantiated and incarnated in the Radio 4 program(me) Thinking Allowed, hosted by the admittedly lovable septuagenarian semicurmudgeon Laurie Taylor (who shows his age in speaking impeccable RP Light despite his lower middle-class Yorkshire upbringing)—would have us  believe that there is a hyper-rational method to this embarrassing excuse for madness.  It would have us believe that the exponents of pseudodialectia, along with the just-mentioned members of the just-mentioned hyper-infantile subcultures, are either heroically conscientious buckers of the late-capitalist system or brilliantly resourceful and innovative entrepreneurs; that they are either doughtily maintaining the last outposts or enclaves of infungible authenticity in a society that ruthlessly and for the most part ineluctably tries to commodify everything, or shrewdly sniffing out and reaping the monetary harvest of new frontiers of commodification that the fat old suits in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, etc., have overlooked in their myopic and arteriosclerotic peddling of the same-old same-old.  But the exponents of pseudodialectia are nothing of either kind and are doing nothing of either kind.  They are in fact pure consumers of the most ignorant and unimaginative sort, unreconstructed worshipers of unalloyed exchange-value, gluttonously enthusiastic gourmandizers of the same-old same-old whose sole abiding desire is to be gourmandized in their own turn.  In his or her own mind, the speaker of a silly pseudo-regional pseudo-dialect, just like the ritualistic donner of squirrel costumes, sees himself or herself as a kind of toy, the occupier of the central place in the newest window display at the most expensive toyshop in town, before which (so he or she fondly flatters himself or herself) standard-English speakers in the millions gape admiringly at the sheer exotic authenticity of the ingenious gimcrack.  “Well, go-o-o-lly!” the exponent of pseudo-dialectia imagines these hapless supposed toffs exclaiming on catching sight of his or her adorably supposedly infungible self, then adding: “I thought I’d seen everything.  But a glottal stop-impregnated pronunciation of better/an omission of the Saxon-genitive ‘s’/ the use of “them” as a plural demonstrative adjective/ Hon as a term of endearment / sat as a substitute for sitting  [autc.]?  Why, this is absolutely unprecedented.  This really takes the cake.  I mean, this is a real keeper.  Have you got a full can of film in the instamatic, Mildred?  I sure hope you have, ’cos you’re going to want to take multiple snaps.”  It is time for us standard-English speakers to let the exponents of pseudo-dialectia know that we have seen what they are up to a hundred trillion times before, that we are not in the least impressed by it, and that if they wish to secure our sympathy, compassion, admiration, or anything else in our possession apart from our unqualified loathing and derision, they had better start whoring themselves in a much more novel and inventive way and toot sweet.  In especial particular, we must make sure that we are not bought off under the auspices of the term code-switching, a term by which the whiggish, heletophilic fellowship of professional linguists denote (but do not accurately describe) the tendency of standard-English speakers to adopt and expound pseudo-dialectemes in the presence of non standard-English speakers.  The very notion of a code, of course, implies not so much a system as a congeries of arbitrary one-to-one pairings that must be memorized more or less in its entirety before one can make even rudimentary sense of the simplest message that is being articulated by means of it (i.e., the congeries or code).  An episode of the 1980s revival of the classic 1950s TV series The Twilight Zone eloquently exemplifies the nature and scope of the problem of being code-ignorant: in it a petit-bourgeois paterfamilias wakes up one fine or lousy day to find that while the rest of his family is still speaking English, for them every common noun has a different referent than the one he is accustomed to; for devastatingly climactic example, in one of his five-year-old daughter’s picture books, a pedagogic aid for early readers, he finds the image of a toothbrush subscribed by the word “dinosaur,” that of a pineapple by “fire truck ,” [or pairings to comparable incongruous effect; I am shamelessly recapitulating from thirty-year-old memory] and so on.  So the poor grown man is now confronted with the theoretically eminently practicable but practically raffishly infeasible task of re-assigning every common noun in his vocabulary to a new referent.  Hence, this example shows us, while the mastery of a code takes absolutely no reflective thought, it is always extremely tiring, and accordingly it recommends itself with especial appeal to our intellectual lumpen proletariat (i.e., inter alia, our professional linguists), on whom, as that latter-day Stateside Samuel Johnson Jacques Barzun observed more than half a century ago (albeit without terming the impugned collectivity the “intellectual lumpen proletariat”), the distinction between the demanding and the merely tiring is completely lost.  The linguists would have us believe that like Standard English, every nonstandard variety of English (including axiomatically each of the pseudodialects I have been inveighing against) is an autonomous and full(y)-fledged code in this prosaically difficult sense, and hence at the very least equal in intellectual heft to SE.  Hence, according to the linguists’ muzzily dim lights the standard-English speaker who in the presence of a pseudo-dialect-expounding collective adopts its linguistic folkways (the paradigmatic case is that of a person who, though not residing with his or her immediate family, is obliged to converse with them from time to time [I refuse to give more detail to the scenario for fear of epiphenomenally affording fodder to those {i.e., virtually everyone} who will insist on ascribing the code-switcher’s episodes of standard-English usage to class/r**e-traitordom]) is to be venerated as a kind of Olympic-class intellectual biathlete who can both run a two-minute mile and bench-press twice his weight—with whichever of the two feats is more arduous [in my smug oblivion of all things sportivic I leave this determination to the relevant authorities and anoraks] perforce standing in for mastery of the compulsorily more-copious non-standard code.  In truth, he or she—the so-called code-switcher—is much more like a run-of-the-mill should-be average early twenty first-century Joe or Jill who in the usual course of his or her quotidian life [the course corresponding to the portion in which he or she speaks standard English] cheerfully, regularly, and habitually showers, changes underpants, saves all bodily discharges for the lavatory, etc.; but who occasionally [i.e., analogously, when spending time around non standard-English speakers] chooses to let it all hang out—to go for days if not weeks without showering or changing his or her underpants, to void from every orifice in company ad libitum, etc.  I concede that in the codic terms demanded by the linguists the first mode of comportment is a picayune thing indeed, for it admits of uncontroversial pairing with but a single wee semioteme, viz. “I exist unobtrusively.”  But the second mode is hardly much more semantically (or semiotically) rich or eloquent: at the very most, three statements, utterances, or messages can be wrung out of it, viz. “I can’t be arsed,” “Ain’t we special,” and “Fuck off, toff!”  In truth, at very best, all non-standard manifestations of English are either wanton or studied parasitic vandalizations of standard English by people (or at any rate hominids) who should and indeed know better, not free-standing, independently originating, self-sustaining codes, and the proper—meaning the decorous, ethical, and moral—way for a conscientious standard-English speaker to respond to instances of them is by coldly, snootily, and obdurately pretending not to understand them (“Who, pray tell, is Chantella House?” “To what slippers are you referring?  I see them, and those slippers, but I cannot for the life of me see them slippers”) even at the risk—nay, the certainty—of coming across like Miss Hathaway from The Beverley Hillbillies or the dude from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air who always wore Argyle pullover sweaters and bowties.  “Or even,” queries the Rational Person (who has just very kindly dispatched the DGR-YFC with a shovel) “at the risk of being treated like the Frankenstein creature at the end of Frankenstein or King Kong at the end of King Kong?  Perhaps, perhaps.  As Johnson said in a nominally different but ultimately identical context, “Martyrdom is the test” [Life, anno 1780, p. 1073]. But I should make it clear that I do not regard your query as a bit of histrionic cant, that I really do believe that death is, as they say, a very real possible eventuality for open upbraiders of the linguistically vandalistic mobility.H
 “So what is one to do if one does not wish to be a martyr—at least not just yet?”  Why, one is to do what believers in temporally seemingly lost causes have always done (or at any rate always used to do, until a century or two ago), namely look to what Johnson and Boswell typically referred to as “a future state.”  “Meaning, say-stroke-perhaps, Guam or Puerto Rico—or even England?”  No, no, no, you silly git—or, rather, and I beg your pardon, you guileless innocent—meaning what has come to be known—and subsequently undeodorizably skunked with the unabidable lilac perfume of Ouijaboardish so-called spiritualism–as the afterlife.  For let us be under no—or as few as possible—illusions: like all worthwhile changes ever made in the system of life, any progressive retrogression to the linguistic landscape of the eighteenth-century Anglosophere would have to be initiated and enforced not from the bottom, by so-called ordinary men and women, “who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb [meaning stupid rather than silent in the case of our latter-day groundlings]-shows and noise,” but from the top, and as the top itself is almost solely populated by those whom Sir Thomas Browne dubbed “plebian heads,” any event more probable than the far-above-mentioned pie-in-the-sky encounter of a television or cinema executive with the present writer qua linguistic Johnny Appleseed is unlikely to result in any from-the-top initiative to extirpate endoglossic diversity.  Perhaps once the Chinese have assumed political dominion over us (and barring the so-called very real and by no means undesirable possibility of a nuclear h********t, the proximate or eventual advent of a brutally totalitarian global Sinocracy seems inevitable) English will once again become more or less uniformly spoken throughout the Anglosphere, as our tongue develops into something of an analogue to Greek in the Roman-governed Hellenephone territories in the second and first centuries B.C.—in other words, a language whose core is defined by its great authors because it has ceded the work of government and general administration to the language of the conquerors.  Under such a dispensation, every motive for marginal differentiation within English will have evaporated because English itself will have become largely marginal.  Achieved at such a cost, the restandardization of English will of course be very much a Pyrrhic victory, but more to the point for present unabashed standard-English speakers, it is not likely to occur within their lifetimes, even if the growth of China’s economic and military might continues uninterruptedly to outstrip that of every country within the Anglosphere.  So then: the unabashed standard-English speaker must look to be vindicated in the hereafter.  “And exactly what form will this vindication take?”  Who knows? As Johnson said to Boswell in a tête-à-tête of September 16, 1777, “[W]e must wait till we are in another state of being, to have many things explained to us.”  In the meantime each of us is free to entertain his or her fancy with the scenario that strikes him or her as the most equitable and agreeable.  For some of us a year-round residence in a sort of standard-English-only country club or gated community will suffice; these quiescent souls will be satisfied with being away from the pseudodialect-spewing mobility, whose fates, however auspicious or calamitous, will be a matter of indifference to them.  I personally would not find such a setup entirely adequate; to be sure, it is an immeasurably huge improvement on my present situation ici-bas, and I cannot but imagine that after a certain measure of time—perhaps as little as a few millennia—spent within its confines, I would come to forget old grudges and subside into a quiescent habitus myself.  But for at least the first few hundred years I shall undoubtedly still be seething with uncontainable anti-pseudodialectal ire, and if only for the sake of sparing the good people of Del Boca Quiescia my tirades I think I will elect to start out my eternal sojourn in a kind of M****m*d*n paradise, one in which the saved soul’s reward consists partly in his witnessing the suffering of the damned, and in having his enjoyment of their suffering witnessed by them in turn.  I picture myself sitting or perched (but not sat), with backside facing outwards and face looking inwards, on the ledge or lip of a balcony or gallery, a dozen-and-a-half feet below which, in a non-climate controlled food court-like space, a milliard or so former pseudodialectia-expounders are crammed together like the proverbial tinned fish and crying out at and up to me snatches of impeccable standard English—“Behold, my Lord and Master: your abject flunky is standing, not stood, here!”; “Have pity on us—not ooze, but us!”; “This is much, much, much more than a wee bit uncomfortable,” etc. –in the hope of securing transfer to some less harrowing form or venue of punishment.  Even in purely administrative terms their hope is, of course, a vain one, for being but an humble servant of A***h myself, I am certainly not empowered to issue sector-transfers, but quite apart from that I am certainly not inclined to show them any mercy—not after all those decades of enforced stooping, cringing, forelock-touching silence in the face (and ear) of their ruthless, shameless vandalization of my (and, more damningly, their own) native tongue.  No, I am much of a mind to treat them to a smattering of the uninhibited sloth-cum-sadism-cum-shamelessness that they imposed on me for the better (and worse) part of my non-sleeping natural life; and so, as I sit there arsiversi on that balcony or gallery ledge or lip, I merrily guzzle pint glass after pint glass of liquidized Metamucil (disclaimer: other brands of bulk-producing laxative are available) and no less merrily void scone-firm, shillelagh-long stool after stool on to the heads of that unregenerate and unregenerable rabble.  (It occurs to me now that the floor of the food court-like space will have to be kept in continuous and unpredictable movement, for my puny [not wee] sphincter can target but a few heads at a time, and none of the rogues can be expected to submit to this peculiar anointment voluntarily.)  I regret that in thus picturing the afterlife as a scene for the righting of mere sublunary injuries I am indisputably flouting a Johnsonian precept, for Johnson regarded even the most abstract or disinterested speculation about the posthumous condition of another human being’s soul with a gravely—and, indeed, appalledly—censorious eye, to the extent of  deprecating (and depreciating) Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor’s guess that either Falstaff or Mrs. Ford “does not serve heaven well” as an “expression so profane, that no necessity of preserving character can justify” it.  It was by no means Pollyannaish in Johnson to discountenance such profanity, for two reasons.  First, discriminating between his good and bad servants is the perhaps the most important of the Christian God’s prerogatives, as it is tantamount to a determination of who deserves to be saved and who damned.  The man or woman who presumes to judge a fellow mortal as a poor servant of God is therefore arrogating God’s authority at the highest level and being as mutinous, as insubordinate, as a human being can be.  Second, wishing eternal punishment on a fellow human being, however obliquely, is an egregious offense against the cardinal Christian virtue of charity.  To wish suffering on someone this side of the grave is uncharitable enough, but at least in some cases such a wish can plead self-interest in its defense: the fortunate man who has harmed us in the past will be less likely to harm us in the future if his fortune goes into a tailspin, because all ill-fortune is attended by a diminution of power.  But a dead person is past all power of harming us, and so if we wish ill on a dead man’s soul we are automatically acting solely out of an impulse of pure, naked, spiteful cruelty, a passion unworthy of the most vicious human inhabitants of this world.  As Sir Thomas Browne, whom Johnson admired as a man perhaps above all other modern writers, wrote, “it is the Devill, and the uncharitable votes of Hell, that desire our misery in the world to come.”  But what if some of even the human inhabitants of the world were themselves minions of the Devil, i.e., dæmons?  Surely then it would be a sin to be charitable to these some, to do or wish them well in this life or in the next, even according to Sir Thomas’s and Johnson’s shared lights?  “Surely, indeed,” the rational person concedes with tweedily flush-faced good humor, “but as both Sir Thomas and Dr. Johnson plainly believed that dæmon and human were mutually exclusive classes of entity, the truth of your point has (to adopt the idiom of William James) no cash value.”  I beg to differ (but not, pace a certain latish Francophone dæmon, defer), RP.  For from the fact (which I am not going to dispute) that the world was free of corporeal dæmons 2.5 and 3.5 centuries ago it by no means follows that the world is free of corporeal dæmons now.  Johnson’s bugbear Davie Hume himself, though he did not believe in supernatural beings of any sort, including dæmons, unquestionably would have agreed with me on this.  And I submit that the routine-cum-signature behavior of today’s champions of pseudodialectia is of a sort that Browne, and hence Johnson, would have regarded as beneath the malignity of human beings, and purely dæmon-worthy.  Consider the place of linguistic imperfection, morally speaking, in Johnson’s Anglosphere: to speak or write English less than perfectly in that world was only ever the result of genuine ignorance or inattention—the ignorance of certain (though by no means all or even most) yokels and provincials who through either bad luck or lack of initiative had not yet met enough speakers of good English to learn how it was pronounced or read enough books in English to know how it was written; and the inattention of those like Johnson himself, who, though thoroughly schooled in all the Anglophone biensceances, occasionally and quite involuntarily reverted to the pronunciation of their own linguistically ignorant phase.  The instances of linguistic ignorance and inattention of those days were either not sins at all or at worst very mildly venial ones, lapses exactly consubstantial with those to which the most virtuous flesh is heir in the common round of life—failing to remember people’s birthdays, neglecting to reply to letters, and so on.  They were, moreover, moral blemishes that Johnson had every reason to believe would become less and less common as standard English continued to be more widely spoken and written and hence became progressively easier to acquire and retain—this because while he may have thought human beings on the whole an indolent bunch (“Even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it” [Life, Tuesday, 24 May 1763]) he also thought them rational enough to recognize a good thing as a good thing and not to reject that good thing as a thing-in-itself (“A desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has to get knowledge” [Life, Saturday, 30 July 1763]).  Another way of putting this is to say that although on the political and ecclesiastical planes Samuel Johnson was very much a pessimistic Tory, on the planes of intellectual and “cultural history” he was a mild Whig, a believer that thanks to seemingly irreversible improvements in the technical organization of society people were becoming more and more civilized (“I am always angry when I hear ancient times praised at the expence of modern times.  There is now a great deal more learning in the world than there was formerly, for it is universally diffused” [Life, Thursday, May 1, 1783])—a meliorist is the official philosophical term for a person with such an outlook.  If someone had told him that two hundred years after his death the English language would be considerably more rather than less heterogeneously spoken and written, the only cause for this change he would have conjectured would have been some retrogression or collapse of some facet of the technical infrastructure of Anglophone civilization—for example from transportation by punctual and regular stagecoaches along well-maintained highways to transportation by spottily scheduled horse carts along pothole-ridden roads as in the seventeenth century; or a reversion in the production of books from movable-type printing to manual transcription by scribes (“The mass of every people must be barbarous where there is no printing, and consequently knowledge is not generally diffused.  Knowledge is diffused among our people by the news-papers” [Life, Tuesday, 31 March 1772].  If he had been told that English was to become less nearly uniformly pronounced, less grammatically consistent, and more idiomatically opaque, in an Anglosphere in which knowledge would be much more widely and thoroughly diffused than in his own Anglosophere; an Anglosophere in which knowledge of their language would be diffused to the Anglophones not only in written form by the news-papers, but also in aural/oral form by the radios, televisions, motion-picture films, and so on; an Anglosphere in which every single English-speaking man, woman, and child would be aware of how English was supposed to be spoken, why, he would have “flown into a passion,” and “‘breathing out threatenings and slaughter,’ called” these latter-day Anglophones “Rascals—Robbers—Pirates” and exclaimed that he would “burn and destroy them.”  To be sure, thanks to the whinging comportment of the Plymouth “docker”-bashers and the Lowland-Scots Ossian-boosters, Johnson himself was well-acquainted with the template of antagonistic self-commodification that would later serve as the modus-operandial mainstay of the Anglophone pseudodialect-mongers.  But owing to their shared apparent superficiality, apparent provinciality, and apparent transience, neither the docker-bashers nor the Ossian-boosters posed the faintest threat to Johnson’s meliorism: the old town Plymouthers could kvetch all they wanted about the dockers, but the truth was that all hope of prosperity for Plymouth lay in the new navy dock, that what was good for the dockers was good for the old-towners, and that much more likely sooner than later, the old-towners would have to acknowledge their dependence on the dockers by ceasing to block their access to vital resources.  By the exact same token, the Lowland Scots could cling all they liked to Ossian as a self-administered sop to their resentment at having been marginalized as mere “North Britons” thanks to the Act of Union, but all the while they themselves were doing their level best to pronounce and otherwise speak English in exactly the same manner as educated Londoners.  The profoundly, resoundingly meliorist lesson of both these exempla, from a Johnsonian point of view, is that one cannot get away with trying to have it both ways for any great length of time, because the better, meaning the more reasonable—and hence in Johnson’s view the more moral (“He that thinks reasonably must think morally,” he wrote in the preface to his edition of Shakespeare)—of the two ways is destined to crowd out the less reasonable one.  But if so-called history, and more specifically the history of English usage, in the past 2.3 centuries, has taught us one thing, it is that people—and not just or even mainly the officially clinically mentally incapacitated or homi-, herbi-, and genocidal psychopaths, but also and perhaps even mainly highly respected and beloved figures of supposedly colossal intelligence, voluminous erudition, infallible judgment and boundless good will—are capable of having it both ways indefinitely, and of plumping brazenly for the worse of the two ways.  These brazen worse-way choosers shamelessly lord it over the decent, hygienic, impecunious, right-speaking and right-writing ever-dwindling remainder (perhaps even f*g end?) of the Anglosphere, calumniating as oppressors of the li’ol people, as chinless, independently wealthy standard-bearers of the so-called establishment, while themselves occupying positions whose remunerativeness and influentiality the best-heeled male or female member of the old so-called establishment would have given his or her proverbial left gonad to enjoy.  They do so either out of a willful pigheaded ignorance of the larger English-speaking world that only a Tarzanian degree of isolation from that world could excuse, or, and perhaps more often, for the sheer diabolical thrill of spreading evil, of making the world an ever-more horrible and ever-more insufferable place.  And they do so because, like the dog in the punch line to the joke, they can, because the decent, hygienic, right-speaking and right-writing remainder of the Anglosophere has never lifted a finger of demurral, let alone a palm of chastisement, to their snotty, sneering, deliberately unwashed faces.  And we have done so out of impulses  that are in their own way no less vicious, no less damnable, no less worthy of eternal reprobation, than those actuating the worse-way choosers themselves—namely, indolence, spinelessness, complacency, and sentimentality—impulses that it is, moreover, quite simply impossible to imagine a man of Samuel Johnson’s acuity, probity, and courage succumbing to.   And so, in conclusion, I am compelled retroactively to new-model the past few pages of this essay, to refashion it from an argument in favor of the juxtaposition of Samuel Johnson with me on that balcony ledge or lip in the M****m*d*n hereafter into an argument for his replacement of the present writer on that balcony ledge or lip, and the displacement of the present writer to the floor of the food court-like space, where he will be obliged to wait his turn for southern-civet anointment among the unregenerate-cum-unregenerable pseudo dialect-spewing rabble whom in life he despised so much but failed to oppose with condign vehemence and ruthlessness.  Whether James Boswell belongs down there with me or up there with the Great Cham remains, as they say, an open question hinging on whether his wrongheaded (albeit merely half-hearted) championing of the Ossianites and shoehorning of the eighteenth-century slave trade into a kitschy, superannuated feudalism were more than counterpoised by his seemingly successful aim to talk exactly like an American.