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BBC Accents … and Teeth

June 19th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, Journalism

Look anywhere in the world, and you will find more than a few people with wonky teeth. Several of my close relatives have had work done, or should have.

It is fairly commonly assumed, in the U.S., at least, that Britons are particularly disinterested in matters dental. Remember Mike Myers as Austin Powers, international man of mystery? Myers wore devices to make his teeth look messed up, which we certainly would have associated with 1960s Britain.

Perhaps the most telling recent example I have of British indifference to bright, well-aligned teeth?

Nothing less than the Beeb — the BBC, or British Broadcast Corporation.

Occasionally I watch World News, on BBC, and I have made a mental note of two concepts.

1. Teeth. Americans expect perfect teeth in their TV professionals. Actors as well as news anchors and reporters.

The BBC is not worried about this. And perhaps never was. Within the past week I have seen a male reporter, in the field, about 45, whose lower middle front teeth were dead or dying. They were brown, not white. He spoke, and those things leaped out at me. “What is he doing on TV with those?” I said to myself. And then I begin to watch more closely. One of the main “presenters” of the early news also appears to have a lower front tooth that is discolored. Another in-the-field person, in her 20s, has a wonky lower tooth which sits in front of its neighbors and points at about 2 o’clock on the dial, as opposed to the normal straight-up 12.

2. The term BBC English once suggested very correct English, pronunciations I suspect nearly every living native English speaker could understand. Scots, Yanks, Aussies, South Africans. It was considered a bit stuffy, but it was correct. Upwardly mobile (social climbing?) Britons often made a point of gaining a BBC accent, while losing whatever they grew up with.

Now? Not so much. The BBC seems to go out of its way to hire people with regional accents. People who are difficult to understand, at times. Actually, an Englishwoman visiting in Abu Dhabi told me a few years back that the BBC won’t hire you if you speak “proper” English. Don’t know if that is true, but she seemed to believe it, and recent exposure to the channel seems to support that theory.

The idea apparently is that listeners like to have someone speaking to them who perhaps reflects an accent they might hear down at the neighborhood pub, guv’nor. Old-fashioned BBC listeners seem to prefer the starchy style, but a sort of populism seems to have gripped the Beeb.

However, given the choice, I believe I would rather have my BBC presenters and correspondents have decent teeth. The accents, I can work through. Someone whose face in on TV … ought to have decent teeth. Mostly white and generally in order.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 James // Jun 20, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Re: the accents… I’ve noticed on Sky Sports News and Fox Soccer that they both like to have Scots on their fairly regularly, with accents so thick you can cut them with a knife. I frequently find myself ‘interpreting’ for my wife and kids.

    Things have certainly changed, now that you mention it, in the last 20 years or so.

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