Richard III – The Reunion


I have always thought the Radio 4 programme The Reunion as being reliable and well presented. When Sue MacGregor was leading it, I never had any quibbles with it, but this morning, the programme about the discovery of Richard III’s body in a car park in Leicester (they didn’t ask why he was buried in a car park, fortunately), perpetuated the canard that there are at least three descendants of Richard, including Benedict Cumberbatch. I wrote about this some years ago, when the body was first discovered (see post entitled Genealogy).

Kirsty Wark also perpetrated two pronunciations which I am sure I should never have heard from Sue M: she used ‘lay’ as the past tense of the verb ‘lay’ (while Richard’s coffin was lying in the cathedral at Leicester, people ‘lay’ flowers there) instead of ‘laid’, and she pronounced genealogy as if it were spelt ‘geneology’. To paraphrase Maureen Lipman, family historians have an ‘alogy’, not an ‘ology’.

Scots will always tell you that they speak the ‘best’ English. Don’t you believe it – they slip as often as the rest of us.


  1. Laid/lay: interesting that you consider it a matter of pronunciation, unless you want to make your point by exemplifying it relatedly. 🙂

    At any rate, the confusion among the forms of lie and lay are old, and incidentally, as far as I know, similar in Scots, for what it’s worth.

  2. A quick look on YouGlish reveals that UK speakers are much more likely to pronounce “genealogy” with the TRAP vowel, while US speakers predominately use the LOT/PALM vowel. But plenty of the UK speakers (mostly academics) also use LOT. Surely this is a word in free variation now, and preferring one over the other seems like a kind of peeving that is way beneath you. Language changes. Get over it.

  3. Descriptive linguists can have preferences, just like a professional tea taster. And inside descriptive linguistics, a common mistake among proud linguists signalling descriptivism and that they’re going with the times is to ignore the connotations of the variants during the time of transition, be it “uneducated” on one side or “pedantic” on the other. (I don’t know you and don’t mean you by this.)

  4. Eric – do mineralogists call themselves minerologists, then, or say that the pronunciation ‘geneology’ is by ‘anology’ with geology? I am with Phillip here – a lover of music can dislike a particular composer or style of music without denying its validity as music. Similarly with linguists and styles of speaking, or grammatical and pronunciational neologisms. Generally speaking, it takes time to accept a new idiom, in whatever field of human activity that may be. In the mean time, what is considered ‘standard’ at a particular time is what least draws attention to itself, and as broadcasters cannot easily be asked to repeat what they are saying, unless you “listen back” (a phrase I also dislike but admit its usefulness on occasion) later, then anything that distracts the audience can lead to misunderstanding or a failure to take in the content of the message. At which point, what is the purpose of the broadcast? It is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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