Word On The Street, BBC2

by | Aug 24, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

An interesting study of the changing language and accents in Britain today, hosted by the likeable Nick Hancock. Good to see the BBC not shying away from educational programming totally.

What to say if you didn’t like it


What was good about it?

• Nick Hancock’s amusing yet informative presentation. He seemed to have a real interest in the subject and it was good to see him doing something other than voice-overs and They Think It’s All Over.

• Some nice nuggets of information like the fact that wool merchants in Leicestershire exported their dialect and accent all over the country as they conducted business.

• The programme focused on one family, the make up of which contained many characters with differing accents. Jane Tatlow and sister Sara Hewett have very different ways of speaking – Sara described her librarian sister as ‘posh.’ Jane’s son felt some of Sara’s son Harry’s vernacular was ‘too chav’. But the show commendably refused to judge these differing accents or claim one was more ‘proper’ than another – this was refreshing as the fashion is to dismiss young people’s language as wrong and/or lazy or decry the influence of rap music. Here, while not exactly condoned, the rap influence was met with sensible discussion rather than horrified hand-wringing.

• Teenager Harry and his gang, who had all sorts of little private noises and words, like a special whistle to announce themselves, a shout of ‘Hooo’ which might be used in a dark park to see if any of the gang were around, and a bizarre high-pitched ‘see-ya bye’ that they nicked from some kid’s parents.

• While perhaps it was obvious that parents, school life and regions affect speech, it was interesting to learn that people’s speech continues to be affected later in life – through work, for example. Hancock pointed out service sector workers change their accents to deal with clients from all over the country so they can be easily understood – and with more and more people working in these areas, this altering of language is becoming quite widespread.

• The programme managed to be interesting without being patronising – a job well done considering its 7.00pm time slot meant it was aiming at a family audience.

• The show was part of the BBC’s project on language and accents in Britain – a fascinating subject worthy of this attention.

What was bad about it?

• Jane chose not to have a TV in the house (they play music instead) – this always seems a shame because TV can provide fascinating and educational programmes (even today!).

• In a way it was a shame that this was tucked away at 7.00pm on BBC2 – it could make for an interesting, longer BBC1 series that would have been far more worthwhile than, say, Titchmarsh’s regrettable Britain series (cheaper, too).

• When Nick Hancock talked about the effect of immigration on language in Britain the soundtrack clumsily switched to a stereotypically Indian theme tune.

• Harry’s explanation of internet chat: “Everyone has a different name so you can tell them apart.” Ah, so THAT’S how it works.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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