Oh, to listen to the language the way it was meant to be spoken...
Like most of my generation, I am an avid fan of the chart topper
period drama 'Downton Abbey' which chronicles the lives of Lord Grantham
and his family living at the stately home Downton Abbey during the early
part of the 20th century. The series which has won hearts throughout the
world, is a wonder to look at - with wonderful period costumes, cut
glass accents and a lively plot, Downton Abbey lets us take a peak at a
way of life once cherished but now long dead. The series stars the
impeccable Dame Maggie Smith who, as Dowager Countess, mother of Earl
Grantham, shines in a class of her own, delivering lines as only she
Watching this series has made me realize that the conversations they
had among each other, in an era before TV and computers and everything
else in between, and the conversations we have today, are totally
different. They really had conversation - the series depict beautifully
crafted words, spoken at the correct time, polite words, words that care
and show concern. Words that are neither brash nor vulgar. If a point
was to made and there were several being made by the legendary Dame
Maggie, there was a way to get it done.
There was no 'Okay' and a host of other meaningless modern words that
rob a good sentence of its true meaning. The beauty of English language,
spoken the way it is meant to be spoken, highlights the appeal of
Downton Abbey. There are no abbreviations or dreadful half words.
Neither are words borrowed from computer manuals and made famous by
texting are used. It is indeed so refreshing to listen to conversations
at the sumptuous dinner table of Lord Grantham.
Today, we no longer have anyone talking at the dinner table. Typical
dinner is served in front of the TV or the computer. Everyone eats in
silence - their attention is diverted to the TV, the computer or the
iPad. The conversations are being held either on Facebook or Skype. Some
of us have very active social lives on line but say as little as two
words to family members.
No wonder Downton Abbey turns out to be such delicious fare for those
of us tired of sitcoms and modern TV series that do their best to
glamorize thorny issues. For them abnormal is the new normal while the
everyday normal is abnormal. In an era guided solely by being
politically correct, Downton Abbey brings back memories of an era when
you did not hesitate to call a spade a spade, when loyalties were not
tested by circumstances. An era when you did not dare to lie or cheat.
When life was simpler and needs were few. Yet an era when people were
grateful for blessings and were more conscious of their obligations than
In episode after episode, Downton Abbey sparkles with the kind of
elegant conversation now long dead. Credit must of course go to Julian
Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey who is a maestro in creating
outstanding television drama.
Not just in England where the series is set but also here in Sri
Lanka, then a delightful Ceylon, conversation and leisurely pursuits
went hand in hand during that era.
There was no stress, no rat race and no one to impress. Children were
children, parents were parents and everyone had comfortable slots they
fell into. Maybe everything wasn’t as rosy as expected but life was
simpler and needs were few, wants even fewer. Children of the time had a
mother and a father and not two fathers as parents or two mothers, as is
the norm in today’s West. Children respected parents and elders and of
course teachers. There was no nonsense about being victimized and
rights. It was assumed that if one was conscious of one’s obligations,
rights would follow.
Of course, Downton Abbey also highlights the class discrepancy that
existed at the time, the down-trodden nature of the poor who served as
servants in big households. But with all the bad things, I still believe
those were times better than those of today. What is considered as the
new normal today would have shocked people of that era to death.
Maybe it is time to teach our children the pleasure of long
conversations, polite conversations, dinner table conversation etc.
Maybe we could teach them that there is a use for good usage of language
besides curt yes or no or maybe, all the while watching the TV or the
computer screen. Human beings express themselves best in lively
conversation. It keeps our lives webbed together, our friendships
Watching Downton Abbey, I long for such opportunities and occasions
to engage in pleasing conversation, engage ideas and share information
with one another in a way it was meant to be done. Wouldn’t you care to