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What is the origin of the Policeman Voice?

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Dajve
1376241.  Fri Mar 05, 2021 10:04 pm Reply with quote

I remember learning from QI the origins of the ubiquitous 'pirate' voice, but what about the classic 'ello ello ello, what's all this then?' policeman voice? It seems to be very broadly used going back many decades. Is there a known originator, or a reason why policemen ended up being condensed into an archetype with a particular way of speaking?

 
suze
1376263.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 9:14 am Reply with quote

My first thought is Dixon of Dock Green.

I'm not sure if that was the first police drama on British television, but it ran for twenty years from 1955 and the old lady in Windsor Castle was said to be a fan.

But did Jack Warner invent that stereotype of a police officer, or did he base it on something earlier? Unlike his character, Mr Warner was actually fairly middle class, so he probably didn't spend his youth encountering the police on a regular basis.

Was a caricature policeman a feature of music hall acts? Mr Warner wouldn't have been quite old enough to see those for himself, but he'd undoubtedly have heard about them. The policeman in Punch and Judy is often played as though he were Dixon, but is that a later development or was he played in much that manner before 1955?

 
Brock
1376266.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 10:05 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
My first thought is Dixon of Dock Green.

I'm not sure if that was the first police drama on British television, but it ran for twenty years from 1955 and the old lady in Windsor Castle was said to be a fan.

But did Jack Warner invent that stereotype of a police officer, or did he base it on something earlier?


The character of PC Dixon, as played by Jack Warner, actually came from a 1950 Ealing Studios film called The Blue Lamp, in which Dixon is murdered. Nevertheless he continued playing the character on TV until 1976!

Whether that character was based on anything earlier, I don't know.

 
suze
1376271.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 11:08 am Reply with quote

Jack Warner was 59 when the show started, and 80 by the time it finished.

In those days, not only could police officers retire on pension after 30 years in the job, but they had to unless they were of high rank. One could join the police at 18, although in practice people tended to do their 18 months of national service first and then join the police at 20.

This of itself might seem a bit odd. Police officers were excused national service, so you might imagine that a person keen not to be conscripted might join the police as soon as he could precisely to avoid it. Perhaps people just didn't think like that back in PC Dixon's day. The only other ways to avoid national service were to be a priest, a diplomat, medically unfit, gay (which was illegal, but if you told the board you were gay then they found a reason not to take you), not white (only white people were conscripted, although I don't really know why), or live in Northern Ireland (no conscription there because they didn't want Republican sympathisers in the British armed forces).

So while top brass at Scotland Yard might be older, rather few "normal" police officers were over 50. Did the show ever explain how PC Dixon came still to be on the beat at 80, or weren't we meant to notice?

 
crissdee
1376272.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 11:14 am Reply with quote

My family were avid viewers of DoDG when I was a lad, and I can't honestly say that I associate him with the stereotypical "'ello, 'ello, 'ello" thing. I remember "evenin' all" as his catchphrase in the introduction, and I think he had a regular sign off phrase, but I can't remember it if he did.

 
Brock
1376274.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 11:31 am Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:
My family were avid viewers of DoDG when I was a lad, and I can't honestly say that I associate him with the stereotypical "'ello, 'ello, 'ello" thing. I remember "evenin' all" as his catchphrase in the introduction, and I think he had a regular sign off phrase, but I can't remember it if he did.


It was (unsurprisingly) "Goodnight all". Funny how it doesn't stick in the memory so well...

But I think you're right - I don't remember him saying "'ello, 'ello, 'ello" either.

 
Jenny
1376277.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 2:17 pm Reply with quote

Somebody asked this question on Quora, and a person called Simon Holledge gave this as part of the answer (the rest was about DODG, which we have covered):

Quote:
Punch and Judy, which has its origins in the 18th century. One of the stock characters is the Constable, also known as PC Plod. (PC Plod has been reincarnated innumerable times, even in Enid Blyton's Noddy where he is the the Toytown policeman (1949). )


Another person named Michael Grainger offered this, which could well be true:

Quote:
I'm not sure it was necessarily only a comedy phrase. Policemen on the UK do so by consent, so their opening comment is often utterly non committal in case you are an upright citizen going about your lawful occasions which you are about to explain.
That's why, even today (last week in my case) a policeman in a fancy 4 x 4 with all its lights going will ask if I know why he has stopped me. I am then in a position to explain myself or offer any excuse I choose. Without rancour.

 
Brock
1376278.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 2:18 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Somebody asked this question on Quora, and a person called Simon Holledge gave this as part of the answer (the rest was about DODG, which we have covered):

Quote:
Punch and Judy, which has its origins in the 18th century. One of the stock characters is the Constable, also known as PC Plod. (PC Plod has been reincarnated innumerable times, even in Enid Blyton's Noddy where he is the the Toytown policeman (1949). )


But how would that have given rise to a standard voice? Different puppeteers would have used different voices, presumably.

 
Jenny
1376282.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 2:42 pm Reply with quote

Not necessarily - I think with Punch and Judy shows it is some kind of convention how the characters should sound. The voices would have to be different from each other for identification purposes.

 
Brock
1376285.  Sat Mar 06, 2021 3:08 pm Reply with quote

Mr Punch had a special voice created by a device called a swazzle, but I'm not sure whether any of the others did. It's a long time since I saw a Punch and Judy show though!

 

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