Life in the Box: The Lost Consonan’


I’ve been thinking about Eliza Doolittle lately. That scene in “My Fair Lady” where she’s supposed to speak more clearly with a mouth full of marbles. Which never made any sense—a mouth full of marbles makes it impossible to say consonants, which is the very opposite of what they were trying to train her to do!

Anyway, my new local weather announcer is dropping her “t’s” and some “d’s” and other hard letters.

The sound is something like this: “In the weather to’ay, we’ll have rain an’ clou’s, so ge’ your rain gage ou’ an’ rea’y for a refill.”

I’m calling it the new American Cockney. It’s becoming a trend. Not just with weather forecasters, either. This week I heard an NPR (young) commentator using the affect. That really go’ me!

After a few decades of “valley girl” talk, it is something of a relief that there is a new young trend. I was so tired of them ending each sentence with a question? Ya know? Like TO-tally!?

Bu’ coc’ney? Hmm.

It’s no’ totally ba’. I ca’ ge’ use’ tuh i’.

There are a few other trends that annoy me more. Like saying “those ones.” I really can’t stand adding “ones” after saying “these” or “those.” It’s an additional, unnecessary word, and to me it’s like a speed bump when I was already going the speed limit. Give me a break!

At least American Cockney streamlines the language!

Whenever I bring up my grammar gripes in a group, I’ve noticed I’m not the only one. You try it. Everyone has something they can’t stand. “Liberry” instead of “liBRary.” That’s the only one I can think of at the moment… you can fill in with your own examples here _____________.

Not long ago, there was a great discussion about grammar on Iowa Public Radio with the author of “Woe is I,” word maven Patricia O’Conner. It’s posted online if you want to listen. Sorry no transcript. Link is at the end of this article. The radio discussion is articulated by Charity Nebbe, who some will recognize from her time on Michigan Public Radio’s syndicated book review show. She’s an enthusiastic and well-informed host.

Anyway, if you ever get to be interviewed on mass media, remember you have a choice—to consonant or not to consonant, that is the question. I’ll be the old lady who shakes her finger at her radio or television for a while, and then just shrugs it off with that ever-popular phrase, “kids these days!”

Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site. 

Iowa Public Radio Call-in Show with Patricia O’Conner