If you’re poking fun at Aston Villa boss Unai Emery, get off Twitter and download Duolingo
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I speak one language. (Two, if you include Pig Latin, but they don’t give out GCSEs in that. Owardscay.) And yet, even in my pathetic state of monolingualism, I still manage to pronounce words incorrectly. Bastardised by a pitmatic drawl, there all sorts of utterances that stumble up my throat and past my lips in various misshapen guises, like the wonky, reduced vegetables in a supermarket’s fresh produce section. To me, the word “film”, for instance, is a two-syllable affair. Don’t know how or why.
I can’t do words with “ck” sounds in the middle either. They’re too tricky. Or as I would say “triggee”. Worse still, such is the way that I flatten vowels, like stress balls in a vice, I can barely get my own name right. When it comes to confirming personal details over the phone I have to momentarily slip into a kind of mock Queen’s English, Hyacinth Bucket-style. Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that I write for a living because it cuts out the middle man on subtitling.
Unai Emery speaks multiple languages to varying degrees of fluency. He has managed teams all across continental Europe, and in England, to a standard that arguably justifies his inclusion in any conversation surrounding the most illustrious coaches in world football. (And he’d probably understand said conversation too, regardless of where it was being held.) He has won four Europa Leagues in the past decade, and secured a domestic treble with PSG in 2018.
But to a dull, unfunny majority, he is just a silly caricature who can’t say “Good Evening” properly.Earlier this week, Aston Villa appointed Emery as their new manager. This was, by any metric, a coup. Within minutes, however, Twitter - Elon Musk’s new plaything - was drenched to the bone with regurgitated video clips and hastily-concocted posts drawing attention to the polyglot’s mispronunciations. Which is a bit like a jellyfish ridiculing you for bad posture, but hey ho.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against a joke (my whole life is one), but this rib-poking of Emery is irksome for two reasons. Firstly, the banality and mindless lack of originality is stunningly tedious. On Sunday evening, Boris Johnson pulled out of the race to be leader of the Conservative Party. Since then, I think I’ve read the words “First time for everything!” about 5,827,938 times.
Granted, the man is a sentient plug hole blockage with more offspring than a mid-90s frat party mixtape, but for the love of all that is holy, stop repeating other people’s observations and one-liners. It doesn’t make you a comic genius, it just makes you a parrot (and sort of a pirate too, come to think of it). And this is where the rote, wearisome Emery discourse has now begun to nestle. If you haven’t got anything amusing, novel, or useful to say, just shut up. Please.
Secondly, and more importantly, Emery himself has spoken about how the constant pedantry over his accent has made him feel in the past. The Spaniard has candidly admitted that he believes the ceaseless derision during his time with Arsenal became a “disgrace”. Again, nobody is insisting that every comment was laced with malice or some kind of inate, latent xenophobia, but if the fella himself - a seemingly decent person who is just trying to get on with his job - has said that he doesn’t like it all that much, maybe don’t do it?
Jokes that punch down for the sake of cheap attention aren’t really jokes, they’re just a bit cruel. And usually quite stupid. A lot of people would do well to remember that eloquence does not necessarily equate to intelligence.
Like me, most of the keyboard mashers sniping at Emery will barely have a grasp on one language, let alone several. Maybe those passing comment would be well-advised delete the app with the little blue bird, and download the one with the big green owl instead - then we can see how their pronunciation holds up in something other than their mother tongue.