Unrelated Incidents by Tom Leonard
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Unrelated Incidents by Tom Leonard
The Context Of The Poem
Tom Leonard was born in Glasgow in 1944, where he has continued to
live ever since. He studied English and Scottish Literature at the
University Of Glasgow. His first publication was "Six Glasgow Poems"
written while at university in 1967. His collection of twenty-years
work, intimate voices, shared the Saltier Scottish book of the year
award in 1984. All though his passport identifies him as a British
Citizen, Tom Leonard sense of his own cultural identity is thoroughly
Scottish. Almost Leonard's poetry is written in his Glasgow dialect.
His aim has always working class "West of Scotland speech that is
My focus on "The voice: in my work Leonard has written, two buy
products over the years. An involvement in performance "Sound poetry"
and an increasingly explicit awareness of the political nature of
voice in British culture.
"Unrelated Incidents" is a set of six poems each of which looks at
some aspect of the way we use language it was written in 1976.
Widney wahnt - Wouldn't want
Wanna you scruff - One of your scruffs
Widny thingk - Wouldn't think
Tokn - Talking
Yooz doant no - You don't know
Yirsellz - Yourself
Canny - Can't
What Is The Poem About
1. The poem seems to be spoken by BBC news reader
2. He/she explains why the BBC thinks it is important to read the BBC
news in a BBC accent. No one will take the news seriously if its read
with voice like/wanna u/scruff. It is not that simple though.
3. He/she speaks here in the accent of an ordinary speaker just the
kind of voice the newsreader is rejecting.
4. A newsreader would never really reveal his/her prejudices directly
to the viewer in this way. So what the newsreader says in this poem
perhaps need to be seen, as unspoken message of the way the news is
How to Cite this Page
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:: 5 Works Cited
Tom Leonard Unrelated Incidents British Culture Use Language Glasgow Cultural Identity Working Class Unspoken
Structure & Sound
The poem is carefully written in a phonetic version of the Glasgow
accent. If you pronounce it exactly as it's written, it should sound
more or less like a Glaswegian voice. Try to listen to Tom Leonard's
own reading of this poem, which is on the BBC TV programme Roots &
Water: Poems form Other Cultures & Traditions. The lines of the poem
are very short. What effect does this have (especially when you read
it aloud)? Does it make the poem sound serious or amusing?
The poet has played with language in a number of ways, apart from the
phonetic spelling. There is almost no punctuation. There is lots of
slang and colloquial words (scruff, belt up). The newsreader talks
directly to the reader. Standard English is the language formed most
usually used by educated English speakers and writers. Standard
English started out as a regional dialect of South East England.
Together with the accent in which it was spoken- Received
Pronunciation- it spread outwards from the South East into all parts
of England. This is now the language of status and authority.
this is thi
six a clock
man said n
a talk wia
iz coz yi
mi ti talk
lik wanna yoo
it wuz troo.
jist wanna yoo
way ti spell
ana right way
to tok it. this
is me tokn yir
right way a
is ma trooth.
yooz doant no
yi canny talk
right. this is
the six a clock
nyooz. belt up.
The content of the poem imagines a BBC newsreader explaining that if he read the news in Glaswegian dialect, people would not believe it. He says there is a right way to speak and spell and that people who cannot do so clearly don’t know the truth and can’t be trusted. On the surface, therefore, the poem seems be criticising people who talk with a strong regional accent. However, although the poem says these bad things about Scottish dialect, it is written in Scottish dialect. The poem is therefore ironic – the message of the poem is exactly the opposite of what the ‘newsreader’ is actually saying. At first we think that the poem is criticising people who talk with a strong accent but the underlying message of the poem is that we are wrong to do so. This is why the poem makes us think about our own prejudices.
The poem states: “thirza right way ti spell ana right way to tok it”.
- Do you think that there is a ‘right’ way to speak? Give reasons.
- Do you ever use dialect or ‘slang’ in your conversations, emails or texts? If so, why?
- Do you think that there is a ‘right’ way to spell? Think about ‘text language and how often you use it. Teachers often worry that shortening words or replacing letters with numbers in text messaging are bad habits that affect pupils’ ability to write properly. Do you agree or disagree with this? Would you use ‘text language’ in your school essays? Explain your answer.