Researching the SPBW and the early days of CAMRA, we’ve come across a few examples of what struck us as the same mock-pompous language so ridiculed by Viz in their ‘Real Ale Twats’ comic strip (“A flagon of your finest ale, stout yeoman of the bar, if you would be so very good”, and so on). Arguably, the use of an antiquated word like ‘ale’ in CAMRA’s name is one very notable example.
We were delighted, therefore, to come across this passage in Martin Green and Tony White’s Guide to London Pubs (the 1968 edition of the book mentioned here), which acknowledges and discusses the phenomenon:
Foreign visitors may be puzzled by a form of pub ‘dialect’ spoken mainly by regulars in Chelsea, West End and City pubs but also in the Saloon Bars of pubs in outlying areas. This dialect is an odd blend of pomposity and facetiousness which passes for wit and, as far as can be worked out, makes the speaker feel like some sort of posed, 18th-century Dr Johnson figure…
A speaker of this dialect will always use more and longer words than are necessary. For instance, instead of saying: ‘Shall we go to the pub?’ he’ll say: ‘Shall we repair to a hostelry?’ Instead of ‘Shall we have a drink?’ he’ll say: ‘Shall we partake of liquid refreshment?’… He will also go in for heavy gallantry; he won’t ask you how your wife is but ‘How’s your charming lady wife?’
Is this resort to overblown cliche an inevitable response to the antiquity (or mock antiquity) of many English pubs? And is the kind of froth blower who prefers to ‘quaff traditional draught‘ perhaps more likely also to enjoy speaking traditional nonsense?