My Fair Lady
Higgins on Eliza's accent and the English language

[Eliza is trying to get people to buy some flowers from her, when somebody tells her that a gentelman, Higgins, is taking note of what she says.]

  BYSTANDER 1 [approaches from behind the column] 'Ere, you be careful: better give him a flower for it. There's a 
bloke 'ere, behind that pillar, takin' down ev'ry blessed word you're sayin'. [He walks off]. 

  ELIZA [leans around pillar curiously, then springs up terrified] I ain't done nothin' wrong by speaking to the 
gentleman. I've a right to sell flowers if I keep off the kerb. [Hysterically] I'm a respectable girl: so help me, I never 
spoke to him 'cept so far as to buy a flower off me. 

  Various bystanders, roused by her outburst, are curious as to what the fuss is about and begin to gather round.

  BYSTANDER 2. What's all the bit of a noise? 

  BYSTANDER 3. 'S a tec takin 'er down. 

  ELIZA [some bytanders act sympathetic to Eliza who is defending herself] Well I'm makin an honest livin'! 

  There are further words of: What's all that shouting? Where's it coming from?, etc. 

  ELIZA [sees Pickering and turns to him for support, crying wildly] Oh, sir, don't let him charge me. He dunno what 
it means to me. They'll take away me character and drive me on the streets for speakin' t' gentleman! 

  HIGGINS [Professor Higgins appears from around the pillar] There, there, there, there! who's hurting you, you silly girl? What do you take me for? 

  ELIZA. On my Bible oath I never spoke a word— 

  HIGGINS. Oh, shut up, shut up. Do I look like a policeman? 

  ELIZA [suspicious at this stranger] Then what d'ya take down me words for? How do I know y' took me down right? 
You just show me what you wrote about me. [Higgins opens up his book and holds it steadily under her nose]. 

  ELIZA. Oh-ow-oo. [We see it contains strange shorthand symbols] What's that? That ain't proper writin'. I can't read 

  HIGGINS. I can. [He reads from the book, tracing the words with his pen for her, and reproducing her 
pronunciation precisely] "I say, cap'n; n' baw ya flahr orf a pore gel." 

  ELIZA. Oh, it's cause I called 'im cap'n. [To Pickering and much distressed] I meant no harm. Oh, sir, don't let him lay 
a charge against me for a word like that! 

  PICKERING [calming her] Charge? I'll make no charge. [To Higgins, who has started taking down notes again] 
Really, sir, if you are a detective you needn't begin protecting me against molestation from young women until I ask for it. 
Anyone can tell the girl meant no harm. 

  BYSTANDER 2. 'E ain't no tec, he's a gentleman: look at 'is boots. 

  HIGGINS [without looking up at the bystander] How are all your people down at Selsey? 

  BYSTANDER 2. Who told you my people come from Selsey? 

  HIGGINS [smugly, continuing to take notes] Never mind; they do. [To the girl] How did you come to be so far east? 
[Inspecting his notes] You were born in Lisson Grove. 

  ELIZA [appalled] Oooh, what 'arm is my in leavin' Lisson Grove? It weren't fit for pigs to live in; and I had to pay 
four-and-six. [She bursts into tears]. 

  HIGGINS [walking away, appalled] Oh, live where you like but stop that noise. 

  PICKERING. Come, come! he can't touch you: you've a right to live where you please. 

  ELIZA. I'm a good girl, I am! 

  PICKERING. Yes, yes. 

  BYSTANDER 2 [to Higgins] Where do I come from? 

  HIGGINS. Hoxton. 

  BYSTANDER 2. Well, who said I didn't? Blimey, you know ev'ryfink, you do! 

  MRS. EYNSFORD-HILL [she approaches this bystander] You, sir, do you think you could find me a taxi? 

  HIGGINS [looking at the sky] I don't know whether you've noticed it madam but it's stopped raining. You can get a 
motorbus to Hampton Court. [Turning to her directly] Well that's where you live, isn't it? 

  MRS. EYNSFORD-HILL [to Higgins, who has already started walking away] What impertinence! 

  BYSTANDER 1 [to Higgins] 'Ere, tell him where 'e comes from 'f ya wanna go fortune-tellin'. 

  HIGGINS [thoughtfully] Cheltenham, Harrow, Cambridge, and er—[glances at his notes]—India? 

  PICKERING. Quite right! 

  BYSTANDER 1. Blimey. 'E ain't a tec, he's a bloomin' busy-body. That's what 'e is. 

  PICKERING. If I may ask, sir, do you do this sort of thing for a living, in a music hall? 

  HIGGINS. Well I have thought of it. Perhaps I will one day. 

  ELIZA. He's no gentleman; he ain't interfere with a poor girl. 

  PICKERING. How do you do it, may I ask? 

  HIGGINS. Simple phonetics. The science of speech. That's my profession: also my hobby. Anyone can spot an Irishman 
or a Yorkshireman by his brogue, but I can place a man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. 
Sometimes within two streets. 

  ELIZA [speaking up from her resumed position sitting on the plinth] Ought to be ashamed of himself, unmanly 

  PICKERING. Is there a living in that? 

  HIGGINS. Oh yes. Quite a fat one. 

  ELIZA. Let him mind his own business and leave a poor girl— 

  HIGGINS [explosively] Woman: cease this detestable boohooing instantly; or else seek the shelter of some other place 
of worship. 

  ELIZA [with feeble defiance] I've a right to be here if I like, same as you. 

  HIGGINS. A woman who utters such disgusting and depressing noise has no right to be anywhere, no right to live.  Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible; don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon. 

  ELIZA [indignant] Ah-ah-aw-aw-oo-oo! 

      Look at her: a prisoner of the gutter, 
      Condemned by every syllable she utters, 
      By right she should be taken out and hung, 
      For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue. 

  ELIZA [very indignant] Ah-ah-aw-aw-oo-oo! 

  HIGGINS [whipping out his book] "Ah-ah-aw-aw-oo-oo" Heavens! what a sound! 

      This is what the British population, 
      Calls an elementary education. 

  PICKERING. Come, sir; I think you picked a poor example. 

  HIGGINS. Did I...? 

      Hear them down in Soho Square, 
      Dropping "h"s everywhere, 
      Speaking English anyway they like. 
      You sir: did you go to school? [sitting down beside a bystander] 
      What d'ya tike me faw, a fool? 
      Well, no one taught him "take" instead of "tike". 
      Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse, 
      Hear a Cornishman converse; 
      They'd rather hear a choir singing flat. 
      Chickens, cackling in a barn; 
      Just like this one. [He points to Eliza]. 

  ELIZA [laughingly] Garn! 

  HIGGINS [noting in his book] "Garn"—I ask you, sir: what sort of word is that? 

      It's "ow" and "garn" that keep her in her place, 
      Not her wretched clothes and dirty face. 
      Why can't the English teach their children how to speak? This verbal class distinction, by now, should be antique.   If you spoke as she does, sir, instead of the way you do, Why you might be selling flowers too. 

  PICKERING [not sure what to make of this] I beg your pardon. 

  Higgins walks over to the coffee stand. 

      An Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him.  The moment he talks, he makes some other Englishman despise him. 
      One common language I'm afraid we'll never get. 
      Oh why can't the English learn to— [paying for his coffee] Set a good example to people, who's English, is painful to your ears. 
      The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears! 
      There are even places where English completely disappears, [receives his change] Why, in America they haven't used it for years. [The bystanders laugh]. 
      Why can't the English teach their children how to speak? 
      Norwegians learn Norwegian; the Greeks are taught their Greek.  In France every Frenchman knows his language from "A" to "Zed."  The French don't care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly. [Chuckles from the bystanders]. 

  Higgins sits next to Eliza on the plinth with his coffee. 

      Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning. 
      The Hebrews learn it backwards which is absolutely frightening. 
      Use proper English, you're regarded as a freak. 
      Oh why can't the English— 
      Why can't the English learn to speak? 

  HIGGINS [to a bystander; handing his cup to him] Thank you. [Turning to Pickering] You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter till the end of her days. Well, sir, in six months I could pass her off as a duchess at an embassy ball. I could even get her a job as a lady's maid or a shop assistant, which requires better English. 

  ELIZA [curiously] 'Ere, what's that you say? 

  HIGGINS. Yes, you squashed cabbage leaf. You disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns! You incarnate insult to the English language! I could pass you off as, er, the Queen of Sheba.