Politics, propriety and power
Back in 2009, the Labour British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was attacked for “bad spelling” in a condolence letter written personally by him to the mother of a soldier who died in combat, and publicised by The Sun newspaper. “Spelling” here acts as a leveller of hierarchical differences in the national political culture, with ruler and subject both publicly disciplined by the same standard language ideology. Previous research on orthography as social practice has tended to focus on deliberate manipulation of fixed spellings; this article extends the approach to unconventional spellings that have come about ‘by mistake’, and also widens it, to consider aspects of orthography other than spelling, focusing on the look of the Prime Minister’s handwriting. At issue, semiotically, are meanings such as ‘the personal touch’ and ‘respect’.
Keywords: orthography as social practice, handwriting, spelling, visual aspects of writing, sociolinguistics of writing, political culture, British political culture, media discourse, semiotics of writing, haptics
Published online: 14 December 2018
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