English as she will be spoke?

Readers of this blog (and there are one or two, it seems) will be aware that I am prone to moan about changes in our language. I don’t mean that I agonise (or even agonize) over the long-standing differences between US and ‘English’ English. What upsets me is the way words are so often badly spelt and wrongly pronounced; the way words acquire new and illogical meanings (I am of a generation that still thinks ‘cool’ refers to temperature, that ‘sucks’ is what a baby does, and that ‘I’m good!’ is an assertion of moral rectitude, not of general well-being); and the way that the grammatical rules I grew up with are now, for the most part, ignored.

Yes, well, of course – I realise that I am just an old diehard, spitting in the wind; that, however much I deplore what I see as the devaluation of our rich linguistic heritage, the language will continue to evolve and change. I shall soon be dead and gone, and no-one will give a damn what I think today.

What I hadn’t realised, though – until I read a recent article in “New Scientist” magazine – was that my grumbling is, in fact, maintaining a fine old tradition. Fifteen hundred years ago, elderly Romans were complaining that Latin – once the lingua franca of the whole known world – was being debased and corrupted. What they didn’t appreciate was that their language was actually dividing into different channels which, in time, would emerge as separate tongues such as French, Spanish, Italian and Rumanian – languages which, to a large extent, are mutually unintelligible, in spite of their common root.

And that, it seems, is what is going to happen to English, eventually. Already there are many millions more people who use English than there are native speakers; and in different parts of the world it is evolving in different ways. The English of Singapore is already distinct from the English of Delhi; that of Nigeria, or the Phillippines, is different again. And it may well be these non-native speakers who will determine the language’s future. The little off-shore island where Shakespeare scribbled will be largely forgotten.

The academics all have their own theories as to what the changes will be, and how long they will take. But one thing is certain: I shall have stopped grumbling long before . . .

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7 Responses to “English as she will be spoke?”


  1. 1 drtombibey April 1, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    John,

    There is no harm in using the King’s English. I have wrecked it at times, but one reason I like to read your blog is to remember how I should speak.

    Dr. B

  2. 2 johnchap April 2, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Tom

    As I hope I make clear, I’ve nothing against regional variations – accents, dialects etc. Y’all are most welcome! But I confess I do hate slovenly speech and sloppy writing – because they make for inefficient communication.

    John (the old diehard)

  3. 3 drtombibey April 2, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Brother you aren’t old, but only have been around long enough to discover some of the truths in life.

    It is frustrating when you’ve seen it before, the inexperienced do not heed wisdom, and history repeats itself.

    Dr. B

  4. 4 johnchap April 3, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Tom

    Ages ago I contrived a little website with Freewebs. It’s still there, and it might perhaps amuse you to see some of my other writings – and a few of my photos. The URL is http://www.freewebs.com/fellows74. Let me know what you think, if you have the time.

    John

  5. 5 Jenn April 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Hi John,

    It may please you to know that all is not lost with the youth of today. (Do I still count as youth? I am 25…) I may be one of a minority, but I was brought up to consider correct grammar and spelling to be an important part of communication. I’m the first to admit that laziness sometimes lets me down, but I do try to make the effort every day to speak correctly. :o)

    I have only just discovered your blog, but it has made me smile, so expect me back here another time!

    Jenn

  6. 6 johnchap April 4, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Hi Jenn

    Thank you for your comment – and how delightful to hear that someone a third of my age cares as much for the language as I do! I have visited your blog – good luck with your ventures.

    John

    PS How about reading my book? I think you might enjoy it.

  7. 7 Alexwebmaster March 3, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Hello webmaster
    I would like to share with you a link to your site
    write me here preonrelt@mail.ru


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