Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Among the many pages at Facebook that I "Like" and which show up with updates in my newsfeed is Blackadder. I assume most of you have watched one of more of the Blackadder series. Today the Blackadder page sent me a one-word status update: Bob.

Here's the first time we meet "Bob".

If you remember, Bob was a girl dressed as a boy, Blackadder fell in love with her. She cropped up again in a later series. Anyway, that's got you all digging out your Blackadder DVDs.

The reason I bring it to your attention today is to explain something to those of you on this North American continent.. We foreigners from across that pond talk funny, according to you. We think of it as normal, the Queen's English, of course, but we are modern, open-minded people and have no issues with North American variations of English. We sometimes tease, as you do us, but no harm is meant by it.

I get quite annoyed, in fact, when British people accuse Americans of bastardizing the language. No, I won't have it. Language is a living thing, it adapts and changes, and it would be really bloody boring if we all talked the same anyway.

If I can just remind everyone, there is no such thing as "no accent". Everyone has an accent. Otherwise you would not be able to talk. You can't lose an accent, only gain a new one. No accent is better than another (personal preferences notwithstanding) and there is no right or wrong accent. There are only differences.

And, if I can be serious for a moment, I will fight to the back teeth, the idea that North Americans talk badly, wrongly, or anything else negative. It's bigotry, plain and simple, by ignorant members of the Old World that take that attitude.

However. By the same token, we cannot allow the Americentric idea that American English dictates spelling. NO.

English spelling is a bit of a game quite frankly. There are rules that don't work, rules that used to work, rules that work in some places and not others, and lots of examples of no rule. In fact, you just have to memorize most words as you meet them. You can love or hate English spelling, it is what it is.

So when new words are invented, there are no real rules to follow. In fact most new words are more or less phonetic. Except they are not. Phonetics don't work when more than one accent is involved.

Listen to the video clip again. Listen to the middle vowel. The "o" in "Bob". That is a very English vowel. No American uses that vowel. In fact if Bob was a new word, and it was supposed to be pronounced the way an American would say it, it would be spelled Bahb. If you wanted it to sound like Bahb, you could write Bahb, and MOST English speaking people would immediately know how to say it. They'd say Bahb.

Yes, we KNOW Americans read Bob and say Bahb, but many others DON'T. Therefore spelling it Bob would not be particularly sensible, would it? It would be fine within North America, but these days things are more international. You have to think outside the box. Plan ahead. Cover all bases.


A very popular breed of dog in recent years is this:

This is a Dachshund, pronounced dahks-und. It's a German word, although that's not what they call them in Germany. But many people just say daks-und. Daks rhyming with snacks. It's wrong but it common enough. In fact some think you are being affected if you pronounce German words as German words. A ridiculous but popular anti-intellectualism, or something.

So, a person was telling me about her Doxie. In writing. I had no idea what she was referring to. In my head I heard the word in my accent. That means - using that "o" vowel up there, as in "Bob". An English O. What came into my mind were the biting fairies in the Harry Potter series. They are killed with doxycide. Don't think she meant that.

Doxy is an old English word for prostitute. This did not compute either.

There is also orthdoxy. 

And this sublime piece:

Eventually, I figured out she meant a dog, by the context, but I assumed it was the dog's name. I assumed she was a Miles Davis fan or something. How was I supposed to connect Doxie to Dachshund?

It's all very well contriving a new name, even if it's nauseatingly cutsey-pie, but for pity's sake spell it in such a way that it makes sense to everyone?


  1. I smile, and love it when things bend you to the point of rejoinder. :D

    Nice music and video--next you're going to get me started on Blackadder, just wait and see. Just like you've addicted me to QI. You are such a [good?] influence. ;) LOL ~ Blessings!

  2. Oh this made me smile.. Doxie is a common diminuitive for Dachshund - at least on this side of the pond. I can't even remember the first time I heard it, I was probably very young.

    I don't call them that, apparently I pronounce it all wrong - Dash-hound - Rhiannon calls them Wiener Dogs.. Whatever they are called, they are cute but I feel bad for the males when their bits drag on on the ground.