Arsevoiced and scatterfashion
People sometimes ask me why I have such a stupid voice. “Why do you have such a stupid voice?” they ask. “Why, why, why, why, why?”
It is not an unreasonable question. My voice sounds like two Mancunian butchers trying to hold a conversation while crossing a corrugated bridge on a tandem. “Yah, yah, yah,” I say, “Blah, blur. Blur, bloh, Bleh?”
Arsevoiced and scatterfashion, my accent is untraceable and my odd turns of phrase have origins everywhere and nowhere. Some people suppose I am from Liverpool or thereabouts but they are as wrong as this analogy about a nailbomb in a crèche.
The explanation for this wonky bumvoice probably lies in a childhood spent watching American cartoons. I have always been especially prone to American colloquialisms and to Canadian raising. My old friend Bladders, a real television junky, was similarly afflicted. In fact, our entire education probably came from American cartoons and the way we speak is just the tip of the iceberg:
In the early 90s, the Wringham household didn’t have satellite television. Just the usual shitty four channels for us. When Channel Five became a reality, my sister and I would sit dot-eyed with anticipation in front of the promotional Spice Girls “Power of Five” place-holder that aired for weeks before Five began their actual broadcasting. We did this for hours.
Bladders, however, despite being as poor as a Dostoevsky protagonist at the end of a tax year and smelling constantly as if his pockets were filled to the brims with haunted yoghurt, had been mercifully blessed with an illegal cable package. He had the poker channels and the weird documentary channels and everything: he even knew the number of the channels you had to flick to in order to catch the 60-second porno previews at midnight. So whenever I could, I used to go over to Bladders’ house specifically to watch new American imports like The Simpsons.
Together he and I developed a love for the character Hans Moleman. We had both spotted him in the early days of the series. I didn’t know the character’s name but Bladders was under the impression that he was called “Edgar Allen Poe”.
The source of Bladders’ confusion lies in an episode in which Hans Moleman is seen pootling along in his new car only to be driven off the road into into the front of a roadside house, which then burns to the ground. A signpost outside the now-destroyed house reads “Birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe”. The joke, obviously, is that this old man has inadvertently destroyed a piece of irreplaceable American heritage, but the young Bladders believed that the comedy arose from Hans Moleman/Edgar Allen Poe driving into his own house.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know who the real Edgar Allen Poe was at this age. This must seem strange to the American readers of this blog, but in England we are not taught about Poe at school. Here, we’re taught proper literature like Shakespeare and Dickens and that story about the prosperous dung beetle.
Yet the words “Edgar Allen Poe” did seem familiar already, so I had an inkling that maybe this Simpsons character was not so named.
Oddly enough, it was a Simpsons Halloween Special that taught me who Poe actually was. The education I received from American television shows may have been slow but it got there in the end.