My Fair Lady - Why Can't The English?

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This song called "Why can't the English?" from the movie My Fair Lady. In this song Henry Higgins starts the song off by singing: "Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter, Condemned by every syllable she utters By right she should be taken out and hung, For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue." referring to Hepburn. With this, followed by a lot of remarks that are similar in nature, he is implying very strongly that there is a Standard English language that should be spoken by all English people, and if anyone doesn't, "by right" they could be hung. He says most people are never "taught" and instead learn other stigmatized varieties of English and refers to these as murderers of the English tongue. He is in this way implying that there is a legitimate use of proper English language, and that is the standard variety that he speaks. therefore considering himself as a "better Englishman", and more educated, in this way making a social class distinction between him and the others. He is also implying that there should be unity of the nation as mentioned by Bourdieu in "The Production and Reproduction of Legitimate Language". Higgins refers to the English speaking people of England as Englishmen, but also mentions that non-standard speaking varieties are "painful to your ears" and is afraid they will never be able to get "one common language".

Posted by Eira Nylander Torallas on March 7, 2017

Standard Language Ideology;
British English;
Socioeconomic Status;

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