BBC's A Very British Scandal shows how posh people mangle the English language like no one else – Susan Morrison

Posh folk talk funny. I noticed this whilst watching A Very British Scandal, about the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll back in the 60s.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 4:55 am
A Very British Scandal tells the story of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, and her divorce from the Duke in the 1960s (Picture: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A Very British Scandal tells the story of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, and her divorce from the Duke in the 1960s (Picture: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It’s great, like a high-calorie dessert, and worth watching for Claire Foy’s way with a red lipstick alone.

We do scandal well in the UK. It’s the aristocrats. They do appear to behave extremely badly. I mean, so do the forelock-tugging yahoos of the lower orders, but one step out of line for Sharon of Bathgate and social services would be piling in.

Margaret, Duchess of Argyll was not just a very naughty lady, she was also a woman who embraced not only many men, but also modern technology.

She kept photographic evidence of her energetic endeavours, something previous racy titled ladies didn’t have access to. Had the illustrious and equally scandalous Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) wanted a memento of her adulterous moments, then she would have had to rely on the quick work of a sketch artist.

Bit of a mood killer, I imagine, having an artistic type in the room shouting “hold that pose, Your Grace”.

The technology Mags used was a Polaroid, which fell into the hands of her husband, the 11th Duke of Argyll, and set off one of Scotland’s most salacious divorces.

If A Very British Scandal is to be believed, 1960s aristos spent a lot of time in each other’s company, smoking, drinking and partying. This explains a mystery I have pondered these many years, which was how exactly did the landed gentry fill their time?

Once you’ve been huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ or whatever it is you do in a castle, what does one do with one's time? And now I know, and danged energetic they are about it, too.

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All that leaping about must have been very tiring, which is why, I imagine, neither Margaret nor the Duke learned how to pronounce the word Inveraray properly.

Both the fantastic Clair Foy and Paul Bettany took careful note of how the warring Argylls actually said the name of the castle. It’s Inver-rar-ray. I checked on the special “how to pronounce things” website, but his lordship and his missus constantly insisted on calling it “InverarAh”.

Y’see. Posh folk can’t talk proper. Quite aside from mangling the name of an entire Scottish town, they forever stick letters in words where they have no right to be. Take the letter R. What’s it doing in the word “drawing”? Even BBC newsreaders can be guilty of saying “drawRing”. Well, Nicholas Witchell, at any rate.

“Off”. A simple straightforward word, so why do titled people bellow “Get oRft my land”?

Dare I say this, but even our beloved queen, Clan Chieftaness of Clan McPosh, can sometimes be a bit of a stretch to understand, as vowels get elongated and all non-R consonants get clipped, as if they had been rationed during the war and she never got the hang of using them. The word “yes” can take hours and the ‘s’ remains silent. A random R sometimes sneaks in “Yeeeeerrsss”.

I’ve not checked out the present duke’s pronunciation of his family seat, but I tell you this, if you ever face one of these Champagne Charlies on Countdown you’ll walk it. These folk can’t handle their consonants.

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