Sherlock Holmes - The Mysterious Case of Language and Culture
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the character of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, who first appeared in publication in 1887 and featured in four novels and 56 short stories. This means that for nearly 130 years Sherlock and his sidekick Doctor Watson have been making a place for themselves in the public consciousness. Sherlock has appeared in various radio, film and television adaptations over time, including some wonderful black and white movies starring Basil Rathbone as well as more recent, modern adaptations starring Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured below).
The contrast between these two representations of the same character are both interesting and notable. For example, if you compare the style of language used by the actors in these these two versions you should notice a significant difference in tone and style. The language from the films starring Basil Rathbone, which were made in the 1930s and 40s, is much more formal than those made in the 21st century. The class system is much more evident too with notable language differences between common servants and the ruling classes. In many cases too the style of delivery is notably different, with long narrative speeches being a key feature of the black and white movies of the war era, whereas a much more conversational style is used for the modern Cumberbatch adaptations. Each of these differences reflect the views and expectations of society at the time the characters are set as well as the time that the recordings were made. This makes them wonderful examples for studies language and culture over time.
Click the images below to explore the mysteries of the English language and culture with super-sleuth, Sherlock Holmes.
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