7 Jun

Nice to know that this still works. I have not abandoned this blog or anything else, yet, because life at the moment is fairly humdrum, and I’m busy collecting quotes from my students (that is to say, writing down anything that strikes me as unusual or a nice way of putting something). This is in direct contradiction to some of the howlers it was too un-PC of me to quote here, but there is a debate raging in Poland at the moment about whether the slogan for Euro 2012 should be ‘Feel Like At Home’ when everyone actually says ‘feel at home’. Does the grammar point make the copywriters look stupid or is it easier for non-native speakers of our beloved language (from Slavonic language countries, at least) to understand what the slogan means because of the additional ‘like’, or is it all just a bit of hogwash designed to make everyone talk about the slogan, like the bricks in the Tate gallery about twenty years ago? Or are they just trying to cover up for the fact that they’ve made a mistake?  I’m all in favour of avoiding using English in slogans if English is not your native language, but unfortunately MacDonald’s grammatically incorrect ‘I’m loving it’ has been there before, and you can’t accuse them of not being native speakers of English.

Trouble is, this all gives strength to the ammunition of certain academic linguists I loathe who are willing to bend the English language so much that it snaps, that even the guidelines disappear. They say it’s okay to speak English wholly ungrammatically (and therefore incomprehensibly) because it’s an international language. Great if you’re for example, an Albanian speaking English littered with Albanian twists to another Albanian. But if someone speaks  English peppered with Japanese twists to an Albanian and he replies in English peppered with Albanian twists, what chance is there for people to understand one another? That’s why certain standards have to be kept, to keep the language comprehensible.

And now my rant against the BBC World Service comes in to action. If I hear one more time from a certain correspondent “I’m hearing that the President is going to take action over blablabla,” I shall personally bombard that correspondent with huge words that will rain from the sky.


2 Responses to “”

  1. Hilary Chapman June 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    But if someone speaks English peppered with Japanese twists to an Albanian and he replies in English peppered with Albanian twists, what chance is there for people to understand one another?

    There’s a case for wider use of Eseranto, I think. Do you agree?

    • makrotantalo June 8, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

      Yes and no. The problem with Esperanto is that it is an artificial language, and doesn’t have the idiosyncracies and cultural background that makes the study of other languages so interesting (some would say maddening). People have tried in the past to make it an international language and it hasn’t really worked. English, like Spanish and French, ‘works’ as an international language, I think because of its idiosyncracies as well as its logicalities, as long as certain standards are kept and people don’t encourage too much abuse of its flexibility – its great strength and also its great weakness. I’m all in favour of the evolution of language, as long as in the process it doesn’t water down specifics, especially in words that have a specific meaning, e.g. unique, decimate, and literally, and as long as people don’t get lazy in the use of structures and excuse it on the grounds that it’s easier for them to say. (This leads to the mistaken belief that this aids comprehensibility, when often the very opposite is the case). There’s a danger that people forget the point of tense structures in English, for example. And please can we have less use of the word ‘cool’, the most over- rated word in the English language.

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