When in France . . .

24 Jan

IT’S afternoon conference and Barry the Business Editor’s having trouble pronouncing the word “barrage” – as in Thames Barrage. He pronounces it like a posh person might pronounce garage.

A few words of explanation. Up here in the North we pronounce the word garage “garridge”. Whereas posh people tend to opt for a pronunciation which, when converted into ink, might be spelt g-raahge. And that’s how Barry is pronouncing barrage. He’s saying b-raahge.

“Yeh. Like. This Doncaster firm called SpikSpan has a contract that’s going to create fifty new jobs doing engineering work at the Thames B-raahge.”

I can see eyes making contact with other eyes in the room. I get the impression something has been discussed after the lunchtime conference concerning Barry’s pronunciation.

The Editor says: “Say that again.”

Barry says: “Say what again, Boss? The whole thing? Didn’t you catch it?”

Editor: “No, just the word b-raahge.”

Barry the Business Editor senses something is amiss, like he is being set up. His smile does not alter, but something flickers in his eyes. I feel a little bit sorry for him. But he has a rubber skin, and stuff bounces off him like welding slag off a steel plate.

Barry, with a good-natured smile: “Thames B-raahge.”

Chuckles throughout the room. The Editor throws himself back in his executive’s chair like executives do: “Barry, I bet you pronounce garridge as  g-raahge, don’t you?”

Barry: “Yeh, well, I think you’ll find that’s the proper pronunciation, if I’m not mistaken.”

Editor: “Yeh, well it might be in France, but we’re up here in the north of England. And up here a g-raahge is a garridge and a b-raahge is a barrage. And on top of that, I don’t think the proper pronunciation of barrage is b-raahge anyway.”

Barry, still smiling: “Well I’m terribly sorry and I’ll just fuck off back to my desk and write my story.”

Editor: “Yeh. Bon v-yaahge.”

And despite feeling sorry for him, I’m wishing someone would ask me what I had for dinner so I can say boiled beef with c-baahge. But no one does. Which is probably just as well.


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