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Why Can’t the English Learn to Speak [song lyrics]


Song lyrics to Why Can’t the English Learn to Speak? (1956), Music by Frederick Loewe, Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, performed by Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady

Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison): 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 Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn): Aaoooww!

Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) [imitating her]: Aaoooww!
Heavens! What a sound!
This is what the British population,
Calls an elementary education.

Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White): Oh Come sir, I think you picked a poor example.

Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison): Did I?
Hear them down in Soho Square,
Dropping “h’s” everywhere.
Speaking English anyway they like.
You sir, did you go to school?

Man: Wadaya tike me for, a fool?

Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison): No one taught him ‘take’ instead of ‘tike!
Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse, hear a Cornishman converse. I’d rather hear a choir singing flat.
Chickens, cackling in a barn, just like this one [pointing to Eliza]

Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn): Gaaarn

Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) [writing, imitating Eliza]: Gaaarn..
I ask you Sir, what sort of word is that? [to Pickering]
It’s “aoow” and “gaarn” 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 (Wilfrid Hyde-White): I beg your pardon!

Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison): 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 set
A good example to people whose English is painful to your ears?
The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears.
There even are places where English completely disappears.
Well, in America, they haven’t used it for years!

Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
Norwegians learn Norwegian; the Greeks have taught their Greek. In France every Frenchman knows
his language from “A” to “Zed”
The French never care what they do, actually,
as long as they pronounce it properly.

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


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