Can I speak to the Owner please?

Speak-a- da-english pleaz.

Do people still speak English in Australia or is it my aging? Of late, I am drawn to the language of silence as the preferred language. There are silent movies why not silent speech? It’s just that I don’t seem to mix with people that still speak normal English. The English speakers have all died, or, like me, are old and prefer silence.

Most people, especially the young now, use a kind of rapid language with bits of English thrown in for good measure. On the television or radio, it is the same. There is the Adam-Hills show which has been lauded as the best ever. In between lots of laughter there is that kind of unintelligible rapid machine-gun type talking between hopeful Biebers or other Big Brother like fame seekers. They must be in such a hurry to attain fame and riches. How else to explain their strange fast talk?

By the time I try to decipher the first few words the program has changed into a mad dance routine and I am again faced with the manic laughter of a rapturous audience and Adam’s rampant crinkly face all contorted into a somewhat too spontaneous response, making a mockery of anyone still trying to make sense of the first joke. I don’t get it anymore. It all moves too fast. The fun has gone out of comedy. Give me back Charley Chaplin or even Ronnie Barker with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. They spoke English.

At least with those cold- calls on the land line you get to talk to someone from India or the Philippines where English is still being spoken properly. It’s a pleasure to be reassured by a polite; ‘can I speak to the owner, please?’ I always feel honored to answer and take great pleasure in finally meeting like-wise people linguistically still normal and intelligible.

It is a great pity that I can’t really extend the conversation. Regrettably, I am not in the market in wanting to get richer, neither need a cheaper phone rate, nor a lucky chance to own a resort on some pacific island with waving palms and coconut clad wearing maidens playing the ukulele. It is a cruel conundrum to find an equal in language but with totally opposite desirable aims or outcomes.

I usually am too much of a coward to end the pleading conversation by, just as politely refusing their kind offers. Instead I switch on the electric juicer , hoping the noise will be seen by the callers as something close to a technical hitch. Those cold-callers have families waiting, little mouths to feed and probably live in some shanty without drainage, let alone have electric juicers. It is a cruel world. But, at least they still speak English, heavily accented, but preferable to the gun fire tattle rattle of our locals and TV comperes.

Here in Bowral we have an Elvis impersonator. He arrived on a Saturday morning by small truck laden with large speakers and amplifiers and a DVD player with TV screen on which he can read and hear the words of the songs that he then ‘supposedly’ sings. He is totally into being Elvis Presley with many glittering gold baubles stitched on his vest and flared trousers. His face is old and a brown weathered sixties looking, topped by a shiny wavy pitch-black wig of hair carefully brushed back but enough of it falling over the right side of his fore-head. Through the years he has developed a formidable stomach but still is agile enough to sway, very routinely, backwards and forwards with a speaker in his hand and makes a credible impression as an Elvis. I can tell that the young walk past somewhat bewildered and amused. They wouldn’t know what a legend he represents. The young are all in a hurry to become instantly famous aided by incoherence.

I really think that this is what he has been doing for years, perhaps his entire life. The whole electronic caboodle is driven by a small petrol generator that is only just less noisy than the pre-recorded music and singing. He has a printed note in an open suitcase asking to support him and his love for ‘The King’. I suppose his cause is as good as any or better. He certainly deserved a couple of dollars. It can’t be easy to pack and unpack this half-truck load twice daily doing the rounds around Australia. A true troubadour. What dedication for an idol that is still lingering around yet faded into history like forgotten notes left in a bottom drawer. I try and spend time listening to this Elvis still sung in fairly normal English.

I can understand every word.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

17 Responses to “Can I speak to the Owner please?”

  1. 8 Degrees of Latitude Says:

    I hear you! I hear you! 🙂


  2. auntyuta Says:

    I can understand your written English. I probably could understand your spoken English too. I refuse to watch TV programs where people constantly talk too fast. And when I watch a foreign movie there are English subtitles which are easy to read. That we don’t like rapid talk, has this something to do with our hearing not being as good as when we were younger?


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      If you go back to old newsreels the difference in speed talk is noticeable, despite inferior recording equipment
      I have had hearing aids for at least the last twenty years, so, I need clear speech. Special ear phones (cordless) for listening to TV are marvelous.


  3. petspeopleandlife Says:

    You are right on about the silly way folks speak nowdays. I don’t like rapid fire speaking or rap type speaking. It is not appealing at all. I wonder how these people will be speaking when they have grown old.

    The USA has an Elvis look alike in just about every city with a siizable population. Elvis music is good. The mimics are not.


  4. Andrew Says:

    Oh no, you have hot one of my ‘hot buttons’. Speaking properly, writing properly and indeed spelling, punctuation and grammar. I know language evolves and I can tolerate change and innovation but not sloppiness. But you are in the company here of the chap who won the School Prize for Reading on several occasions. I had to read a piece of Churchill one year, I recall. But at the age of 12 I refrained from attempting the voice. Perhaps I settled for the cigar and brandy instead. I am all in favour of the modern troubadour. Largely harmless and occasionally entertaining. Indeed one of Britain’s top entomologists is a dedicated Elvis fan, to the extent that he permanently sports The King’s hair style. Bring back fools, jesters and troubadours. providing of course they can speak the Queen’s English. Rappers need not apply. As an aside, I have a rather quaint object on my desk next to the laptop. It is called a fountain pen. (Younger readers may need to use a dictionary). I find it oddly therapeutic to reach for a pot of ink and a pen now and again. If I can find paper that is. Writing on the desk is frowned upon. Even if we did do it at school. Oh to be 11 again.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I am afraid to be somewhat sloppy with grammar and syntax with H often having to correct me. Oh, for having had a formal education.
      I do remember the ink pen and ink well recessed into wooden school desks.
      If one had done good at school and not too cheeky, one sometimes was asked to fill the ink-wells from a special bottle with a rubber spout. Our metal writing tips were made to slide into the pen. It always felt good to write with a new pen.
      The art of writing has also gone a bit strange. When the ball point came out some thought it would be the end of literacy. Now, we blame IT and Twitter.
      I am starting to sound like a cranky old man, quick, throw a rock at me! 😉


  5. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Elvis was a comet who streaked across the skies and is hard to forget. We don’t really watch TV shows, but watch foreign movies daily with subtitles. I can understand every word. However, we live in a community of great ethnic diversity and for some reason these people refuse to speak English. I heard a great cacophony by my front fence this afternoon when I went out to pick some roses. Loud raucus and cackling Chinese. The women seem to be shouting at each other even when standing 2 feet apart. It is not an attractive language I’m sorry to say. Many times at a store someone has asked a question either on how to work the credit card machine or something, and I just say sorry, I can’t understand you. I don’t know what you want. I feel sorry for them, but it’s too late for me to learn Chinese or whatever. I understand a little Spanish, and we hear a lot of that. My friend once pointed out some moss to his Mexican gardener and told him “No mas!” in no uncertain terms. When he got home that night the entire bed was wiped out. “Mas” means more, so what the man understood was that he didn’t want anything left in the flower bed.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I am terribly hard of hearing but lack courage to ask people to repeat their words and I often just answer either in the positive or negative. By the reaction on their faces I know if my answer was right. If they look puzzled or quizzical I quickly fuzz the issue by reversing the answer or just smile a bit and move my head in a circular motion. From experience, asking for a repeat often doesn’t make it any clearer. It is my fault. It remains a dilemma how to respond.
      I garee, that Chinese language sounds like fighting while in fact they are having just lively conversation. Russian language I just love, it is already so melancholic and just seeps with sounds of drama and theatre. I wish I could speak it.


  6. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Gerard, have you read Bill Bryson’s book ‘Mother Tongue’? I think you might enjoy it 😀

    I don’t have a problem with accents or the way that people speak. I suppose that’s from living in various parts of the UK and London in particular. You get so used to the myriad ways that the Inglish language is spoken. Having said that, I hate it when people jabber and talk too fast, it gives me indigestion!


  7. gerard oosterman Says:

    Hello Lottie.
    I love accents more than black pudding. I am forever kindly disposed to English speakers with accents. I hate jabber and those that take on the latest fashion speak. The young now often speak with a rising intonation or pitch. Every sentence sounds like a question. Have you listened to young pop stars on the TV lately? The pitch goes up and up and one expects an opera house in words, alas, it all falls down in nonsense shanty dribble and ‘stuff’ like that.


  8. Charlotte Hoather Says:

    I’m working on improving my diction whilst singing and speaking as I know how important it is to make sure your audience understand your lyrics, especially when people that listen to you aren’t from your Country or Region.

    🙂 liked your post.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Charlotte, I have listened to your lovely voice and can make out the words even without my hearing aids. I am sure you will find success as a singer if you haven’t already.
      Have you listened to Joan Sutherland?


  9. Patti Kuche Says:

    Here in NY I am constantly having to repeat myself, it’s exhausting! I am missing a whole tonal range in the efforts to be understood first time round . . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: