Monday, 29 March 2010

High Rising Terminal

Uptalk, upspeak, a.k.a. turning perfectly reasonable and definite statements into questions by letting your voice rise quizzically at the end of the sentence.

Like this?

Yes, like that.

It has been blamed on the Australians. It has been blamed on the New Zealanders. It has been blamed on the Valley Girls of 1980s California. And, apparently, the citizens of Bristol and East Anglia are not entirely blameless either. I don't care who started it, but I'd like it to stop.



Picture the scene. A tanned, thin, youngish man, sun-streaked fair hair. He's dressed in cut-off denim shorts, flip-flops and appears to be holding a human skull.

"To be? Or not to be? That is the question?
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer?
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles?
Sea? Did someone mention sea?"

He drops the skull and runs athletically across the sand. He reaches the lip of the ocean, dives in and saves a young woman (who is sporting what looks like an ikebana flower arrangement in her hair and who was at the point of drowning). You can guess the rest.

Or this one. A portly, balding man wearing a boiler suit, the trousers rolled up to reveal blue-white ankles (finely turned). A knotted handkerchief is perched upon his bonce. He is slumped in a striped deckchair, puffing on a cigar.

"We shall fight on the beaches?
We shall fight in the landing grounds?
We shall fight in the fields and on the streets?
We shall fight in the hills?
We shall never surrender?
Really? Never?
I think I need to lie down ..."

The whole course of history would have changed if the High Rising Terminal had been around then.

You will all agree that I have clearly and concisely proved my point?


  1. Like, this is really spooky? Like, I've been here before?

    Alright, enough's enough, I know....

  2. I may have just ruined two great speeches?

  3. This is the single most irritating speech tic I can think of, especially chez les femmes . It suggests a vacuity of mind in much the same way a Tennessee accent does.

    But then there's 'like' which Martin reminded me often goes together with the up-tick, but it doesn't make people sound quite so brainless. Or maybe it does?

  4. I guess, like, you know what I mean, right?

  5. of my pet peeves...although I am from Arkansas and Tennessee both and have successfully rid myself of the accent, Deborah, I do think many of the folks that reside there are anything but vacuous...although I must concede your point! The accent is a bit annoying if you are not used to it.

  6. It's hideous. I think that it is a way of trying to keep people involved in vacuous conversation because turning each statement into a question requires some form of acknowledgment from the listener, right?

  7. Welcome Stacie & Annie. Thank you for calling.

    @ Stacie - I like all accents except the strong Birmingham (England not Alabama) accent which I associate with stupidity and dullness. This may, however, be due to the ownership of a relative who could fairly (and kindly) be described as stupid and dull and who speaks in a slow, monotonmous Birmingham accent.

    @ Annie - That is a very good point? Only last week, a Young Scholar gave a presentation which was exhaustively researched and well-organised. But every blimmin' sentence ended on a High Rising Terminal so she may as well have been saying 'I hate how this swimsuit leaves tan marks, do you like these highlights, they're honey gold I decided against treacle shimmer as it was too dark and it clashes with my nail polish, Ooh look! A sea gull?'

  8. N.B. Monotonmous is how monotonous is pronounced in a thick Birmingham accent. Something to do with phlegm, I believe.

  9. Dear Moptop,
    I have had to go to Stacie's blog and eat crow. Who'd of thunk that my regional slur would be read the VERY SAME DAY by a Deep Southerner???
    Let's get DoctorFTSE to work out the odds on that one.

  10. Dear Deborah

    I am waiting to see how many Brummies I've offended. Perhaps I should make it clear that not ALL Brummies are stupid and dull. They just sound as if -


  11. Hahahahaha!!.....lord but I love your funnyness.

  12. I rate High Rising Terminals at the same low level as "gonna", "like", "you know" and "going forward" - and the glottal stopped "T" in words such as "little", "better", and "constitution". AND IT"S SPREADING! As more and more parents rely on the television to teach their children to speak, and more and more presenters, interviewers, interviewees and actors on radio and television speak semi-literate Estuary English, we'll soon be in the situation where only the over 50's speak intelligibly with or without a regional accent. Just noticed that High Rising Terminals has the same initials as another condition in the Medical Lexicon. Pass the tablets, someone . . . Sorry folks. Sloppy speech annoys the funnybone out of me . . .

  13. You guys are hilarous. I can't even think of competing in your verbal games. Walking away laughing.

  14. This is so, like, true. Especially of girls, I have to say. Boys aren't so keen on doing it, because it just sounds like their voices haven't broken properly yet.

  15. Maggie, welcome. MEA CASA TEA CASA EST.

    Fran - hadn't thought of that. Excellent point, well made?

    Dr FTSE - you have made me think of something else, for which I thank you in advance.