Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav

Is there any British person who speaks completely in RP?

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Yes. His name is “Nigel M.” . He’s on display at the National Gallery in a glass case (with holes, of course, for air) near the the reception desk, equipped with a special intercom phone that you pick up, slip a pound coin in the slot, and hear him say: “Hello! Would you like some tea?” and some other niceties.

But he’s only there Thursdays to Saturdays, 10am–4pm—with an hour off at 1pm for a pub lunch (incognito).

Rumour has it he will retire soon, though, so you better hurry if you want to catch him. It’s not certain his replacement will be as good.

EDIT: I’ve been corrected about his name, and asked to provide more details:

  1. “Nigel M.” is not his real name, but an honorific that comes with the position, named after the original RPL—Received Pronouncer Laureate—in the nineteenth century.
  2. The National Gallery gig can be tedious, but the position is very well paid, and for life (unless something irreparable happens to his vocal chords)
  3. The rest of the week Nigel is at the BBC, where his accent (dubbed “the Standard Nigel”) is used as the standard by which its presenters’ accents are measured. Accents are measured in SN (Standard Nigels), with Nigel’s own accent rated 12 (there was a move to convert it to 10 with the decimalisation of the currency in 1971—but some traditions you just don’t mess with). The Queen’s own accent—uniquely—is rated above 12, because, well, she is Queen, and her accent is even More Received.
  4. Training is a gruelling ten years’ long, and on average only one out of every 572 applicants gets to the final twelve.

Is there any British person who speaks completely in RP?


Author: יונתן אור-סתיו | Jonathan Orr-Stav

Hebrew-English translator, editor, author. מתרגם עברית–אנגלית, עורך באנגלית, וסופר.

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