BBC 6 minute English-The plastic princess

BBC 6 minute English-The plastic princess

BBC 6 minute English-The plastic princess


Transcript of the podcast

Finn: Hello, I’m Finn, welcome to 6 Minute English. With me in the studio today is Neil

Neil: Hi there, Finn

Finn: Hello Neil. Today we have a royal story about Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – or as she is still often known – Kate Middleton

Neil: Yes, Prince William’s wife has been in the news this week after a well-known British novelist compared her to a shop-window mannequin with no personality of her own

Finn: Now, the novelist in question is a woman called Hilary Mantel. She has won a number of awards for her books set during the rule of Henry VIII – he’s an English king from the Tudor period

Neil: The Tudor period – that’s the 16th Century, well from 1485-1603 to be precise

Finn: Very good, Neil, and as a history graduate I’m not surprised you knew that! But can you tell me, how many wives Henry VIII had? Was it

a) four

b) five

c) six

Neil: Well I took my degree a long time ago but I can still remember, I’m pretty sure, the answer is ‘c’ – six

Finn: Ok, well let’s find out if you are right at the end of the programme. Going back to Hilary Mantel, her quotes are from a long speech she made – the London Review of Books Lecture – on the subject of royal women

Neil: We’re going to listen to three clips from the speech itself. In the first, just pay attention to the descriptive language you hear

Author Hilary Mantel

Kate Middleton, as she was, appeared to have been designed by a committee, and built by craftsmen, with the perfect, plastic smile, and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished

Finn: We hear a number of interesting phrases here: Kate is “designed by a committee” – which means designed by a group of people who all have an interest in the outcome

Neil: Yes, it’s a negative phrase. She is then “built by craftsmen” with the perfect, plastic smile

Finn: And it goes on to say that the “spindles of her limbs are hand-turned and gloss varnished”. A spindle is a thin, wooden rod – and so this is a description you would expect of a beautiful doll: lovingly hand-made and then covered in shiny, protective varnish

Neil: Indeed – the language used is quite imaginative, as we’d expect from an awardwinning novelist, and it uses the vocabulary of craft or craftsmanship. It is what we might call an extended metaphor, we might say, – a long comparison

Finn: But when the long comparison is to a doll – to an object – you can see why it has caused controversy

Neil: That’s right, which is the interesting point: by comparing Kate Middleton to an object, Hilary Mantel is really describing how she is portrayed by the media

Finn: We call this process objectification – becoming an object

Neil: Let’s listen to a bit more of the speech

Author Hilary Mantel

Machine-made, precision-made: so different from Diana, whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in every gesture

Neil: Again we hear the language of manufacture – Kate is “precision-made”, “machinemade” – made according to precise plans, as if by machine

Finn: Unlike Diana who was very human. She talks about Diana’s “emotional incontinence”. Incontinence is when you can’t control yourself when you need the toilet

Neil: So emotional incontinence is when you can’t stop your emotions from showing – they showed “in her every gesture” – in each gesture or movement of her body

Finn: Although Mantel says she may have had more personality, as we know, things ended badly for Diana

Author Hilary Mantel

We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago

Finn: Hilary Mantel suggests that the media and public drove Diana to destruction – the constant attention on her private life was what caused Diana’s death

Neil: And this happened “a scant generation ago” – which means “barely a generation ago” – not long at all

Finn: Now, as I’m sure many people will know Diana died in a car crash, but many royals in history died by one particular means – as Mantel says – they had their heads cut off

Neil: Which brings us back to the question at the beginning of the programme. I know that two of Henry VIII’s wives had their heads cut off, or were beheaded, but you asked how many he had in total

Finn: Yes, was it

a) four

b) five

c) six

Neil: And I said ‘c’ – six

Finn: And you were absolutely right so well done there

Neil: My memory is good

Finn: Very good. Before we go, Neil, could you remind us of some of the words we learned today

Neil: Yes. We heard

shop-window mannequin objectification machine-made emotional incontinence gesture scant beheaded

Finn: Thanks Neil. Well, that’s it for today, let’s behead the programme. Please join us again soon for 6 Minute English from bbclearningenglish

Both: Bye

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