The Duke - June 3, 2015

The finishing touches are made to a replica of Blackpool Tower at the Illuminasia indoor illuminations.  Electrician Luo Ping at work at the top of the tower.
The finishing touches are made to a replica of Blackpool Tower at the Illuminasia indoor illuminations. Electrician Luo Ping at work at the top of the tower.
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How many voices do you have?

No, not the ones you hear in your head (or is that just me?), I’m talking about the ones you use on a daily basis.

It appears more than half of men put on a different voice when dealing with plumbers, electricians or builders. Women are presumably too busy using their first voice number to bother with a second or third one.

Even so, a third of householders admit to using different language, accents or slang words when they open their home to workers.

And here in the North West we are more likely than anywhere else in England to change the way we speak to fit in with tradespeople – with financiers and creative industry workers the most likely to put on a false voice.

I’ve got to admit I’m as guilty as the next man, or next “mate” as a survey carried out by Kiwi Movers would have us believe we call everyone else.

It all started a long time ago but even when at The Gazette I had a post-it note next to my telephone with the one word VOICE written on it. This was to remind me to sound business like and vaguely interested rather than my usual mumble and tone of near complete boredom.

Long before that I deliberately changed my accent. As a teenager I decided that I’d like to be a radio presenter (well a pirate radio DJ actually but The Parents didn’t approve so I had to posh it up).

At the time the only other option to a risky life spinning discs at sea was the BBC and it wasn’t exactly awash with Yorkshire accents.

So, much to the bemusement of my classmates I went from Tyke to toff overnight. A couple of thumps later I realised the error of my ways and found myself with a day voice (for school), a night voice (for apparently not impressing girls or future employers with) and a radio voice (for the long suffering patients at Leeds General Infirmary where I hosted a Saturday night programme on their in-house radio station).

By the time I got to university things had levelled it. Or so I thought. I auditioned unsuccessfully for the BBC.

“Your accent is all over the place,” said the owner of a Queen’s English Home Counties special.

Unfortunately “all over the place” hadn’t come into fashion and wasn’t going to until long after I’d decided the written word was safer. In newspapers, like space, nobody can hear you scream.

My accent remains a chameleon. Four years in Wales gave it a touch of the valleys, a year in New York left me with some very strange intonations (although whilst there I was embarrassingly over the top “Inger-lish”) and after more than 40 years living in Lancashire I’ve given up any hope of ever sounding properly posh.

Much to the amusement of former deskmate Jacqui Morley I could never learn how to say “worry” without it rhyming with “flurry,” grass always had a harsh “a” and only one “r” and in the most general of ways “love” will always be a three letter word (ie “luv”).

In contrast Mother Dearest moved out of her native Leeds more than a quarter of a century ago and left her Bramley accent on the Poplar council state as did our former near neighbour, the author Peter Robinson.

Now living in Meltham, near Holmfirth, I sometimes think I’ve mistakenly telephoned a minor aristocrat when she picks up the receiver with a regal “helloow.”

But if she wants any work doing to the house she’d better take a night class in social downsizing and back slapping bonhomie – or be prepared to be ripped off right royally.

Pointless laws need banning

I’m not a great lover of red tape – particularly the sort that emanates from the European Union (EU).

To my mind it’s right up there with compulsively watching Coronation Street, attending too many meetings, Twitter addiction and washing the car more than once a year.

So I was pleased to learn that Brussels is overhauling its rule-making procedures and promising new measures to prevent pointless laws ending up on the statute books.

Needless to say there’s still a bit of red tape involved in what the EU is calling its Better Regulation plans.

“Impact assessments” will be drawn up by a new seven-member Regulatory Scrutiny Board to see if decisions are “well informed and evidence based.”

It sounds a tad red tape-ish to me but 80 planned Commission policies have already been axed this year – and only 23 laws will be proposed compared with an average of 130 over the last five years.

Lest we forget recent near misses (or bungles as we used to call them) – narrowly avoiding banning restaurants from using refillable jugs of olive oil for diners, banning MRI scanners in hospitals for fear of radiation exposure, and banning pipe organs in churches because of their lead content.

How about just banning laws which ban things without thinking them through?