There was a heated argument going on in the British House of Common over the question whether the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn really uttered the word “stupid woman” at Prime Minister, Theresa May during heated discussions on the handling of post-Brexit prosedures. The Speaker of House of Common, John Bercow frequently intervened in the argument by repeating the phrase, “I’m not a lip reader, I’m a lip speaker.” I saw Mr. Bercow repeated this phrase more than a half dozen of times in Youtube.

Of course, you must move your lips when you speak up. However, what does it mean when he says “I emphasis lip speakers rather than lip readers”?

From The Guardian: 2018/12/19 Jeremy Corbyn tells Commons he did not call May a 'stupid woman' - as it happened

John Bercow: Having heard the allegation against the leader of the opposition and having watched the footage it is easy to see why the leader of the opposition’s words might be construed as ‘stupid woman’. That was also the opinion of lip speakers - and I emphasis [sic] lip speakers rather than lip readers - whose advice was sought and obtained at short notice.

Does it mean Mr.Bercow trusts Mr.Corbyn's denial of making an offensive remark than lip readers' reading?

  • The link you provided doesn't exist. But I emphasis is ungrammatical. It should be I emphasize. (You've left out parts of the text, so there's also missing context.) In any case, I suspect it's just a subtle pun. I don't spend my time interpreting what other people say. I prefer to simply speak myself. It's like saying I don't watch from the sidelines. I'm a participant. In other words (or so I think this person is saying), it's foolish to debate what he said when he clearly knows what he said. (Unless what you really mean is you think he's lying.) Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 6:40
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    @JasonBassford in British English the verb is spelled emphasise, the OP only needs to add an "e"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 6:53
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    It's a subtle pun, John Bercow is the speaker of the House of Commons, ergo he is someone who "speaks" or allows others to speak, and in order to speak you must use your "lips".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 6:56
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    @Mari-LouA. A happy new year. Accidentally, I turned 86 years old on January 1st this year. I have seldom posted in the site last year, but I see you are active. Re quote, I simply cut and pasted the line from the Guardian. Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 7:30
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    Congratulations on your birthday! Many happy returns and a joyous new year.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 7:40

2 Answers 2


A lipspeaker is a professional figure, who in this case helped John Bercow to form an opinion based on professional advice:

A lipspeaker is a hearing person who has been professionally trained to be easy to lipread. Lipspeakers reproduce clearly the shapes of the words and the natural rhythm and stress used by the speaker.

A lipspeaker may be asked to use their voice, using clear communication techniques, thus enabling the lipreader to benefit from any residual hearing.


From the same article, further on, we have the answer supplied by the journalist Andrew Sparrow

Bercow repeatedly said he consulted lipspeakers, not lipreaders.

What is the difference? Lipspeakers are hearing people who can read lips. Lipreaders are people who are deaf or hard of hearing with the same skill.

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