Home Opinion and Features It’s Greek to me

It’s Greek to me


For starters, we have 11 official languages to choose from. Which one was voted the sexiest? If it was English, which brand of English?

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I READ recently that an international poll had rated New Zealand’s as the sexiest accent in the world, followed – to my utter surprise – by South African.

I would never have thought anybody could consider a South African accent sexy. French, maybe, or Italian or Spanish, but surely not South African.

For starters, we have 11 official languages to choose from. Which one was voted the sexiest? If it was English, which brand of English?

The English speakers in the Eastern Cape sound very different from those in Cape Town. The Afrikaans speaking people of Bo-Kaap don’t speak like the intellectual Afrikaners of Stellenbosch.

I haven’t even touched on languages like Zulu or Xhosa, which I am sure, are capable of sounding every bit as sexy as French or Spanish in the right circumstances.

I do have a problem with our multiplicity of languages, though. In today’s commercial world a great deal of selling and canvassing is done on the telephone. Hardly a day goes by without some stranger pinging into my life to offer me funeral cover or cut-price butter or a special deal on a new car.

Many of these telesales people speak in languages which are obviously not their own.

Most give a sales pitch read from a prepared script. They tend to read very fast to get the whole message across before the listener becomes bored and hangs up. The result is sometimes very hard to understand. In some cases it sounds like complete gobbledygook to my elderly ears.

“Coolmoron symphony wheelbarrow sausage string cheese grater,” the caller says.

I reply: “I beg your pardon. Could you please say that again?”

“Coolmoron symphony wheelbarrow sausage string cheese grater.”

Then there’s a long pause while I run that message through my brain.

Eventually, I give up and say, “Thank you for calling, but I don’t want one today”, and not having the faintest idea what I’ve been offered.

It may even have been something I desperately wanted.

I know we are supposed to be equal opportunity employers and it’s probably illegal to discriminate against anybody on the grounds of race or language, but surely if a job depends on a clear speaking voice that should be the main criterion for employment.

Employers might save a great deal of wasted time and customer frustration if they took the time to listen to their own telephone sales people and decide whether their accents are clearly understandable, no matter how sexy they sound.

You probably wouldn’t employ a colour-blind person as a paint consultant, so why risk exposing your telephone customers to a mumbler?

Last Laugh

Two council workers were heading along a long street. Every 10m one would dig a hole and the second one would fill it and they’d head along for another 10m and repeat the operation.

A curious resident asked them what they were doing.

“Usually there are three of us in our team,” said one. “I dig a hole, Sam puts a tree in and then Joe closes the hole.”

“Sam’s off sick today, so we’re carrying on without him.”