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Jamie Oliver – Spoken Language Essay

Jamie Oliver is a chef who has made a number of television programmes for Channel 4; in most of these programmes he is cooking and instructing the audience, although he is sometimes part of documentaries about food, for example in schools. His style of speech is very different to many of his contemporaries: he uses his distinctive style to present himself as a down to earth, friendly TV chef.

Oliver is the only person talking in this transcript because he is cooking and explaining his actions for the TV show. The fact that he is cooking while talking means that there are numerous pauses in the transcript, for example ‘…Your burger (2) and then some rosemary’. The two second pause indicates that he is demonstrating this action on the programme; it is important in his role as a TV chef that he doesn’t just sit and talk through a recipe because viewers want to see the recipes being made and they also want to be entertained and kept interested by Oliver moving around in the kitchen. Other pauses suggest that, although this programme is probably scripted to some degree, Oliver is not reading from an autocue but retains an element of spontaneity to his speech. The pauses at the start of the transcript, ‘Hi guys (.) welcome to ministry of food (.)’, are indicators of this spontaneity, as is the non-fluent ‘er’, which is presented later on in the show. Although sometimes a sign of nervousness, in this case I think the pauses help Oliver to appear normal, like his viewers, so they are more likely to attempt his recipes and, of course, buy his books.

Jamie Oliver’s Estuary accent and his accompanying use of London slang are also distinctive features of his talk. A Word such as ‘bash’ is a colloquial and is not a word we expect to hear on a cooking programme. We are used to words from the cooking semantic field such as ‘whisk’, ‘bake’, ‘stir’ but Oliver’s language use again makes him seem very normal, approachable and relaxed. As well as specifically accented words such as the dropping of the ‘h’ in ‘orrible’, Oliver’s elisions ‘gonna’, ‘wanna’ and ‘kinda’ demonstrate his relaxed tone. As well as using these to build a successful TV persona, Oliver could be using this informal language because he is concentrating more on the actual cooking and explaining the key details of the recipe rather than the functional language he uses.

It is important that Oliver does not appear too bossy to his audience: they need to feel like they can relate to him; it is therefore important that he moderates his use of imperatives. Throughout the transcript, he softens his instructions to viewers: ‘…about a tablespoon of oregano (1) you want about’; ‘an egg some rosemary some (.) mustard’; this lack of precision is encouraging to people watching his because it suggests this recipe is easy to follow. The self-deprecating suggestion that Oliver is not entirely sure of what he is doing, just guessing, means that he does not assume a too-powerful position in relation to his viewers. The word ‘;literally’ implies that the solution is simple and easy, so Oliver maintains his persona as the ‘friendly, easy’ TV chef in contrast with someone like Gordon Ramsay and his very technical, scientific recipes that cannot be replicated in ordinary kitchens.

In conclusion, Jamie Oliver uses many features of talk that are typical of TV chefs, such as numerous pauses and imperative instructions which are essential in his role, but he also has a very distinctive personal style of talk, characterised by his accent, use of slang and colloquial vocabulary. He uses his own idiolect to create a successful TV personality that viewers can relate to and follow as a cooking role model.


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