Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Story: Her Most Remarkable Performance. Chapter 6.

by Camille Langtry

Chapter 6

The following week, not without some hesitation, Lady Georgina came to see Mr. Noble. His office was on the first floor of Evelyn’s theatre and had a separate entrance from the back street. The shining brass plate by the door proudly proclaimed: Dr. Victor F. Noble. Linguistics & Theatrical Art. Georgina sighed deeply and rang the bell. A minute later the door was opened by a middle-aged gentleman in a gray coat, who bowed and introduced himself.

“Mr. Noble. Linguistics and theatrical Art. You must be the lady Miss Fairchild told me about? Please come in. I’ve been expecting you,” said the gentleman in a deep, authoritative voice of a paterfamilias or a university professor.

Lady Georgina followed Mr. Noble into his study, a spacious room with book-lined walls and a large table, which was almost completely covered by piles of paper and notebooks of various sizes. The study’s owner offered Georgina a seat and continued.

“Miss Fairchild has told me about your request, but I’d like to hear it from you. What is it that you are trying to achieve? All people I have worked with over the years came to me to learn elegant and correct speech as well as good society manners. Is your intention to learn the opposite?” Mr. Noble inquired with a polite smile.

Georgina repeated the story made up by Evelyn, even though she could see Mr. Noble didn’t quite believe it, although he didn’t dispute it openly, just raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders just a little bit.

“This is certainly very interesting,’’ he finally said and sat down by the table, examining his visitor in greater detail. There was no question she was a high society lady. It wasn’t just her immaculate dress and coiffure - with the nouveau riche from across the Atlantic flooding this great city it was no longer a sign of anything, least of all good upbringing. It was how the lady carried herself, how she walked, how she set down, how she took out her handkerchief from her purse, how she put aside her parasol. How natural and effortless all of it was.     

Mr. Noble lifted one of the piles of books to remove a piece of paper with something scribbled on it and handed it to Georgina. “Here, I’ve prepared something to get us started. For years I’ve been collecting and cataloguing most common mistakes made by the uneducated and unrefined people that came to me. So when a new student enters this door I usually give him a list of typical mistakes to avoid. With you, Miss,  I’ve done the exact opposite by putting together mistakes that need to be learned and memorized. Please take a look before we start. Some of them may sound silly, but believe me all of them are based on real speech habits of the working class.’’

Lady Georgina looked at the paper that was given to her. On top it proclaimed in fancy oversized letters: A guide to vulgar and uneducated speech. Prepared by V.F. Noble.  Following the title was a long numbered list, written down in painstakingly accurate, easy-to-read handwriting:

I. Always speak louder than necessary as if you are calling someone across the street. You want to be heard by everyone around you and draw attention to yourself, even if you don’t have much important to say. When eating, speak with your mouth full.

II. Avoid using long and sophisticated words that only an educated person could know. Or, if you do use them, use them incorrectly or mispronounce them to show that you don’t really understand what they mean.

III. Always use double negatives, in particular with never.  Highly educated and refined people go to great lengths to avoid this mistake. Think of it as a more natural, if incorrect, way to express things, which, in a way, it is. Therefore, instead of “I did not hear anything” say “I never heard nothing” and instead of “I shall not speak to her again” say “I shall not speak to her no more”. Other common expressions that no educated person would ever use are “it ain’t nothing”, “I can’t do none of it”, “I won’t go no more” and so on.

IV. Always use contractions when you can. Never use full expressions such as “am not”, “is not” and “are not”. Always use “ain’t” in their stead for there is no better mark of low upbringing than phrases like “I ain’t going” or “She ain’t at home”.  

V. Use them in your speech instead of those or these as much as you can, in particular in front of nouns. Them dresses, them houses, them books, them chairs. “Them dresses are very pretty”. Never say “do you mean those”, but “do you mean them” instead.

VI. Always use form see’d or see instead of saw or seen. Say “I have see’d her here often” instead of “I have seen her here often”.  In another example you should say “I see her yesterday” instead of “I saw her yesterday”.

VII. Always use done instead of did or have done. Therefore, use “I done it yesterday” instead of “I did it yesterday”.

VIII.  Try to use is instead of are on most occasions or use them interchangeably - that is another unmistakable mark of a girl who received no education and has no notion of grammar. “Them rooms is dirty” will be the most natural thing for a housemaid to say  instead of “these rooms are dirty” that her mistress would say to convey the same meaning. In another example, you can also say “the books is dusty” instead of “the books are dusty”. Perfecting this will require a lot of attention and practice on your part, but once you’ve mastered this simple rule no one will ever mistake you for a refined and educated lady.

IX. Always use do instead of does. He do, she do, it do. She don’t understand. He don’t know nothing. Never add -s to verbs. I should be “it look fine”, not “it looks fine”, “he like to walk” instead of “he likes to walk” and so on. Such expressions are extremely common among the uneducated and the vulgar.

X. Always use double superlatives.. More greater and most greatest. Most beautifullest. Most biggest. Other common and vulgar expressions you should learn are more worse and more better.

XI. Use exclamations as much as possible. Such a habit is extremely common among the lower classes, that have a fondness for repeating exclamations with little meaning, such as “my goodness”, “goodness me”, “la, madam” and so on. No member of the upper classes would ever use them.

XII. Try ending everything you say with a question by adding “ain’t it?” or “don’t it?”. This prevalent habit is as much a sign of low upbringing as a double negative or confusing is and are. She’s a hard working girl, ain’t she?

XIII. Use the name of the person you are talking about at the end of the sentence with an “is” or an “are”. This is utterly illiterate, but is one of the most common mistakes a working girl would make when speaking of someone. “She was a very kind woman, was Mrs. Howard”.  “He is a very worthy man, is Mr. Howard”.

“I understand that this may seem overwhelming at first, “ said Mr. Noble after Georgina was done reading and raised her eyes. “Please do not worry about it too much. I do not expect you to memorize all these rules at once. The main thing you need to remember is not to concentrate on grammar. Think of it this way: your goal is to say something, to get the meaning across, not to say it accurately. That is exactly how the working classes speak. With upper classes form is often as important as meaning. Sometimes it is even more important how you say something, not what you say. The working classes do not have to worry about this strange peculiarity.”

Lady Georgina couldn’t help but remember how fixated her mother always was on impeccably proper speech, the agreeable tone of voice, the sparkling accentuation. A true lady is not only judged by her appearance, but by her voice, she would always say.  Lady Olivia was convinced that a woman’s attractiveness is in no small measure determined by grace of her speech, its purity, refinement and elegance. For Georgina that meant tolerating her mother’s constant attempts to correct how she spoke and what words she used.  Having to unlearn all this with the help of Mr. Noble was a liberating experience that Georgina found oddly comforting, as if she came from the cold and was removing a layer after layer of extra clothing that she no longer needed in a warm room.

“Let us start with the most basic thing,’’ said Mr. Noble and looked at his young visitor, a mischievous fire in his eyes. “How would you greet someone you are meeting for the first time, Miss? What would you say?”

“I would say ‘pleased to make your acquaintance’,” replied Georgina, not quite sure why Mr. Noble was asking such a strange question.

“Very well. I hope you realise that no commoner would ever say something as fancy as this? If they would it would be most unusual and utterly unexpected,’’ said Mr. Noble and smiled. “They use much simpler phrases and you should do as well if you want to pass as a working class girl. Let us imagine you’ve just walked into this door, what would you tell me?”

“How do you do, Mr. Noble,’’ was Georgina’s reply.

“No, this simply won’t do. Say it again, only much louder, as if I am semi-deaf,’’ Mr. Noble demanded.

“How do you do, Mr. Noble!” Georgina raised her tone of voice just a little bit.

“Louder! I can’t hear you!”

“How do you do, Mr. Noble!!” Georgina said much louder, almost screaming.

“Very well. You don’t need to scream, just say it as if you want everyone in a large room to hear you. Another thing is how you say it. How do you do. Try to say it like this: ‘Ow ya doin’! Remember, you are not a noble lady, you are a poor girl with no education and no manners to speak of,’’ Mr. Noble explained.

“How you doing!” Georgina tried to imitate the working class accent and failed miserably.

“‘Ow!” Mr. Noble exclaimed.

“How!” said Lady Georgina, failing again.

“‘Ow! Just drop the ‘h! Don’t you forget, there is no surer sign of low upbringing than that,” Mr. Noble insisted.

“‘Ow ya doin’!” Georgina finally succeeded and was very pleased with herself. It would require a lot of practice to make it natural, but she was now determined. Perhaps, she would need to pay closer attention to Sarah’s speech and mannerisms and try to emulate them to the best of her ability.

“Much, much better. I guess learning to drop the ‘h’s at the beginning or words is as hard as learning to say them properly. Not all of my pupils were as talented as your friend Miss Fairchild,” he said with not a small hint of professional pride. “Your case is new to me, but I am certain we can make it work. A little attention and endeavour to correct yourself will soon make the vulgar and uneducated mode of speaking as easy and familiar to you as the correct one, and will make your impersonation of a working class girl a complete success!”

“Can I ask you something else, Miss?” Mr. Noble suddenly asked and raised his eyebrows. “Would you mind standing up and making a few steps back and forth for me?”

Lady Georgina stood up and moved gracefully around the room, her full skirts making a rustling sound with every step she took. “Will that be all?”  she stopped in the middle of the room and looked at Mr, Noble.  

“Can I ask you to make smaller steps and walk faster just a bit?” Mr. Noble asked his visitor and looked on as Georgina did as instructed, still restrained as a true lady should be. “Very well, thank you very much. I think we have much work ahead of us.”



31 comments:

  1. An Appreciative ReaderJanuary 4, 2017 at 10:26 AM

    It's so good to see this story back! This is great, reverse Pygmalion. I like the touches of Victoriana such as the title ("A guide to vulgar and uneducated speech. Prepared by V.F. Noble") As always, expertly done!

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    1. Indeed. I wonder if Mr Noble is a relative or colleague of Henry Higgins. Perhaps a smooth exchange between Eliza and Lady Georgina might help 'Susan' to her inevitable birth.

      Lovely to see a new episode to this enfolding drama - or perhaps, From Lady Georgina's POV, disaster :)

      thanks Camille.

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    2. Thank you so much. Always amazed by people reading and commenting so soon after I post. Not that I am complaining, of course. I am really pleased you like it. Well spotted (but kind of in plain sight) Pygmalion (there was another reference in chapter 1 too, a bit of an "Easter Egg", and there will be another one in the epilogue). By the way, there is also a reference in this chapter to a famous British novel than nearly everyone knows (but very few read) - did you or anyone else catch that I wonder?

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    3. I'm fairly widely read but I didn't catch another literary reference even after a re-read. You'll have to give us a clue.

      The speech therapy is interesting. Teaching 'posh' usage is relatively straight forward because what is supposedly correct is generally accepted. However the reverse is not the case. Presumably Mr Noble is going to teach Georgina to speak with a working class London accent (cockney?). If they were based further north then working class accent and dialect ( very different things) would be different. The most obvious being the long and short 'a' and 'u' as in 'grass' v 'grarss' or 'up' v 'ap'.

      Anyway, I love role exchange stories and this is shaping up to be a cracker :)

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    4. It's in the name! If I say more you'd guess right away!

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    5. An Appreciative ReaderJanuary 6, 2017 at 1:03 AM

      Well I'm still stumped! A secret to reveal at story conclusion. All I could think was Victor is the name of Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the monster. Maybe there's a Dr Jekell and Mr Hyde reference in there - that's another famous British novel known and not read by yours truly so I wouldn't know... Trying to think of transformation novels.

      As for quick comments, maybe that's time difference. I can grab a quick look before work if I'm lucky. And if I'm double lucky there's a post there to whet the morning grind...

      You are though a seriously talented writer with a frightening depth of cultural knowledge! Please, do keep sharing :)

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    6. Well, may be I'd add annonations to the finished story-) Guess I am still a scientist at heart.

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  2. Perhaps a passage like this would not be considered erotic by anyone who doesn't share our kinks, but for us gimps of this particular sort, it's utterly delicious (and lubricious, and lubricacious)....

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    1. Can't agree more. For me, the training is much more exciting than the end result. Way too ofen in downgrade/social drop stories were are not given the satisfaction of enjoying the slow descent.

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  3. 'So nice to see this story progressing. A protracted length of time studying and emulating the vulgar and vernacular may cause poor Georgina to forget when to go back into "refined" mode at times. And then (depending upon circumstance), what an embarrassment such forgetfulness could constitute.
    But nothing that could not be overcome by her preferred wearing of a well-fitted maid's uniform, which attire will automatically excuse a multitude of adopted ill-mannerisms and "in-character" expressions. ;)

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    1. Oh yes, it's a cultural minefield, is it not?

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  4. Another great chapter its turn into a wine of story. The longer it goes on the finer it gets. Thanks

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    1. Given the time it has taken me to-date to write it this may be a very appropriate comparison, unfortunately!

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    2. Do not forget your not just writing your maintaining the blog as well as palnning an ebook so it will take time.

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  5. Great chapter Camille.
    The small linguistic guide to vulgar/uneducated speech is priceless.
    Of course I'm looking forward to the next chapter(s.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Monica G.

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    1. Happy New Year, Monica!
      I am very happy you like it. I do wonder if anything of the kind actually exists for method acting and the like as actors are trained to play lower-class characters etc.

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    2. Maybe they can here.
      https://www.city-academy.com/accent-training

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  6. Great Story, thanks for sharing

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  7. Lovely, what more can be said.
    Hugs
    Jackie J
    X

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    1. I believe the "what more... said?" you referred to, Jackie J, could be answered by "More chapters!" lol. This is not to infer the author should feel pressured to produce copy any sooner, right, Camille? Best wishes. :)

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  8. I love the attention being paid in this story to the process of transformation, to the physical training and mental conditioning of the subject. It is a favourite theme of mine, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly.

    Speech-patterns and accents are such a minefield of social, regional, and ethnic snobberies, that they are obviously a rich seam from which to extract degradation and humiliation.

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    1. Yes, I love the process too. I am glad you are enjoying it!

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  9. Cor blimey! She a bloomin marvel that Camille lady is.
    BillA

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    1. Who you callin' a marvel? I am good girl, I am!

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  10. Touché, Camille, on your above come-back (of Jan. 5, 2017)! lol
    Regarding Item III on the "Guide" above, a noted double negative I heard at times in the UK was, "I ain't got none," in response to a question. "You mean to say, 'I don't have any'-- is that correct?" should have been my retort... but hindsight is 20/20, is it not? :D

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  11. Thouroughly enjoying the series so far Camille. Funny and clever all rolled into one.

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    1. Thank you so much, you couldn't have come up with a better compliment.

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  12. Camille mam when can we have a next version of Molly. Waiting eagerly

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    1. I am afraid I have too much on my plate right now so Molly will have to wait as much I'd love to return to her adventures. Definetely not until I finish this story.

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