The lingua franca of the ‘establishment’ is now only spoken by a tiny fraction of the population – although the RP tinges of my own accent often proved beneficial
People often talk about the English language as if it is a thing to keep pretty – a petticoat that might be sullied by the spread of glottal stops, text-speak or slang. The latest to weigh in is the writer and critic Jonathan Meades, in a column mourning the decline of received pronunciation (RP). Meades argues that the accent – also known as the Queen’s English or BBC English – should be regarded as “a sort of glue, a force for uniting the country” and “celebrated as a tool of social mobility”.
The term RP has murky origins, but it is regarded as the accent of those with power, influence, money and a fine education – and was adopted as a standard by the BBC in 1922. Today, it is used by 2% of the population.