On bookshelf, a witty play on linguistic oppression

On bookshelf, a witty play on linguistic oppression

Mahtab’s Bookshelf

Here in the “Pick for the Week” series, I’ll help you pick your’ to becoming’ favourite books, fiction as well as non-fiction, ranging from all genres and all ages, through weekly series of mini completely spoiler-proof reviews.

Pygmalion by G.B. Shaw

[THE MOTHER] How do you know that my son’s name is Freddy, pray?

[THE FLOWER GIRL] Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y’ de-ooty bawmz a mother should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel’s flahrzn than ran awy athaht py in. Will ye-oo py me f’them?

Open your mouth wider and try to read that again with a crazy accent, and read them out loud.Great! that was a cold blood murder of English done nicely. Now give it a few more tries.

And let’s see now how correct you got it.

[THE FLOWER GIRL] Oh, he is your son, is he? Well, if you’d done your duty by him as a mother should, he’d know better to spoil a poor girl’s flowers then run away without paying. Will you pay me for them?

Sir Bernard Shaw’s popular play is fun at most when read out loud, in a crazy accent. And don’t worry about whether you’d understand his wild spellings, you’d have mastered it by the half of the first act.

His masterpiece is more than a mere comedy play, it’s a witty criticism on the abuse of language as an instrument of oppression, and who’d understand that better than us, in India, where English defines one’s class.

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The name “Pygmalion” comes from Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who falls in love with his own creation, Galatea. The play takes an approach on that, as Dr Higgins, a phonetician, falls in love with a flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, after he takes up on challenge to transform the flower girl, so as to fit her among high class, by helping her with her personality and her language (it’s anything but a love story!). The play explores the division of class in 20th century London, based on how one speaks.

The play was first performed in 1913, and has inspired a few well known films, one that I’ve watched is, “My Fair Lady” of 1964. The film is a musical drama, and the songs are funny. Listen to one below.

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