Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You rang M'Lord

As the title of this blog indicates I’m involved in learning American English. However, it doesn’t mean that I avoid every piece of material from the United Kingdom. I have some favorite musical groups (such as Deep Purple, or Iron Maiden) from Great Britain and I also like some funny movies or TV series.  In this post, I’d like to introduce you to a funny series from the BBC entitled “You rang M’Lord”. It was broadcast between 1990 and 1993 on BBC. The episodes show a house of an aristocratic family in the 1920s, contrasting the upper-class family and their servants in a house in London. 

I watched this series a couple of years ago on a Hungarian TV Channel. It was dubbed into Hungarian, but I also wanted to watch this series in English as well. I got some DVDs with original English audio and I had the opportunity to watch the whole series again. I watched each episode twice in English: first without subtitles, and then with subtitles so I was able to write down the unknown words.  

I won’t tell you the whole story of the series. On one hand, it’s impossible. On the other hand, I recommend that you watch this funny sitcom. Now, I’ll only tell you some interesting facts that I found out while watching the DVDs. I watched this series from the aspect of a learner of American English.

British Accent

The actors are speaking in a typical British accent. Of course, actors playing the members of the Meldrum family speak a very special aristocratic English of 1920s. It IS definitely strange to hear. It’s an affected, snobby sounding kind of speech that doesn’t seem very natural after today’s American English. In addition, it’s not natural in today’s Great Britain. After the first 10-15 minutes I thought I couldn’t stand it at all, but later I got used to it. I realized that the series is a grotesque portrait of the hypocrite life and the affected speech was a tool. The actors who play the servants speak more natural English (although it’s British too) and their characters generally are more likeable. It’s better to say that I prefer the servants’ characters rather than the snobby aristocrats.

I would like to highlight only one thing that is quite different in British and American English. It is the same from the aristocrats and the servants. Let’s see at the word “butler”. It means “The chief man servant of a house” according to Oxford dictionaries both in the British and American version, but the pronunciation is different. Listen the British pronunciation /ˈbʌtlə/ , and the American one /ˈbʌtlər/  . What can we hear? In the British version, they drop the “r” sound. It is the same in other words such as “car”. It is called “non-rhotic accent”. In Great Britain people mostly speak with the non-rhotic accent. So do the actors of this sitcom, and it also gives typical British feeling to their speech.

Anyway I could tell you other examples of typical British pronunciation from this sitcom, but my post would become a kind of never ending story.


It’s an evergreen issue. Many people think that American English is a kind of lazy speech, full of reduced phrases, words like wanna (instead of want to) or gonna (instead of going to), but British English is a real nice speaking language. Well, even British people reduce words, but sometimes they do differently than the Americans. Even considering this fact, I was very surprised to see that “gonna” is used. Okay, the situation is generally rather informal, but the fact is fact: “gonna” is used in the series. I guess mostly the servants use it, and aristocrats say “going to”.
Well, the series brings us back into the 1920s, but it was shot in the 1980s. So I don’t know if the reduction “gonna” was used in the 1920s, but one thing is sure: it must have been used in 1980s as the actors use it.
If you don’t want to believe me, look at this screenshot from the film.

Episode 6 (Beg borrow or steal)

By the way, someone asked me if I use “wanna” and “gonna”. I definitely use them in speaking, but in writing I avoid them. For me, it’s very strange in writing, but natural in speaking.

‘em instead of ‘them’

As I realized in the States, American people say such as “I like ‘em”, instead of “I like them”. So in speech, the “th” sound of the pronoun “them” is dropped. I also realized that this exists in this series.
Look at it:

Episode 7 (Labour or love)

This reduction is used by aristocrats as well:

Episode 8 (Trouble at mill)

Unknown words

At last but not least I would like to tell you my experiences about unknown words. Well, there were several words for me to learn. I have to add that I consider that word unknown as well that I met before but I come across a new meaning for me.  

I will show you only one example. Let’s see the word “sack”. It canbe a noun when it means “a large bag of strong, coarsely woven material, as forgrain, potatoes, or coal” But sack can be a verb as well. I know this world from NFL (National Football League – Football means a different sport in the United States. What the world names football is called soccer in the United States.) In NFL, sack means “to knock down the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage resulting loss of yards for the offence”. Well, I met this word as a verb in this British sitcom, so obvious that the meanings that I knew weren’t suitable. What does it mean exactly? From its context, it was obvious that it means “to make someone leave his/her job” or “fire someone”.

Episode 15 (Mrs Liptons nasty turn)

So I recommend that you watch this sitcom. It’s really funny. You can learn a lot about Great Britain during the 1920s  and also about British English. Enjoy!

Kate checked this post again. She is searching new students again on her ITALKI profile. Her lessons are awesome and enjoyable. 

Bye bye,

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