On the naughty step - conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: the Vikings

There is a generation of people for whom Australian soap operas were a way of life. Neighbours, with its tales of Scott and Charlene, Mrs Mangle and, um, Bouncer the dog, has been etched on the minds of millions - in the UK as well as Down Under.

Many have blamed this fixation for the annoying adoption of uptalk, the habit of using rising intonation at the end of a sentence even when it is not a question. You know how it goes. "I went to the shops yesterday" goes from a simple statement of fact to a weird apparent interrogative where the listener is left wondering if they're supposed to know the answer to a non-question.

Yet it turns out it's got nothing to do with Scott or Charlene. Hooray! It can't be blamed on Alf or Ailsa, either (Home and Away - keep up). According to a professor of linguistics at Aix-Marseille University in France, uptalk entered the UK with the Vikings. West Norwegian maintains rising intonation in statements to this day, apparently.

The difference, Professor Daniel Hirst told The Times, is that "when a man from Belfast tells you, `I'm going to smash your face in' and his voice rises, he's being assertive. But Australian uptalk is the opposite."

So there you have it. Teachers battling the curse of rising intonation needn't worry about soap operas. The enemy, it appears, is the Vikings, who are currently residing on the naughty step.

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