2 September 2011

Why So Many Words?

Peter Rozovsky is always an "agent provacateur" for the amateur linguist. If you rush over to his blog, there's a great discussion on "good" and "bad" language usage. As ever, this set me thinking...

Authority is being scrutinised in every area of life at the moment. I have always been puzzled by the numerous professions that manage to gain enough power to force the majority of people to conform to the linguistic rules that they insist are "right" and "correct". I know many of the rules, but am often amazed at the number of people who become incensed by "bad grammar" or "misuse" of words. They often write to our national newspapers to the hilarity of the rest of us who apply a sort of "speak and let speak" policy (a variation on "live and let live")

Liz Lockhead has some wonderful poems on the subject of being hauled off to school to be indoctrinated on how to "speak proper".

The snobbery visitors to Ireland have on the subject on how Hiberno-English is seen as a lesser dialect also offers hours of entertainment. I have met many people from mainland Europe who are not convinced by my claim to be "Irish" simply because I do not speak like Darby O'Gill.

Ultimately, language is used to allow people to form into groups where they feel comfortable and which excludes those who do not know the shared code. There is a very bizarre programme running on TV here at the moment called "Made in Chelsea". It is really interesting for linguists.

All that said, there was a documentary years ago where an Irish person spoke at length and the producers put in sub-titles. Very helpful, as I had not a clue what they were saying as I had not visited the exact place from whence they came.

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Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe the barbarians are still arriving.

Language is used to exclude people who don't know the code? I'll grant that Steven Weber uses the language as well as I do when he talks his producer into giving me a lucrative co-starring role in Weber’s next television series. Why should I be excluded from being a television star just because I don’t know the code?.

I had never heard of Weber, and from the wretchedness of his prose and the immaturity of some of his comments, I’d assumed he was some young punk. In fact, he’s fifty years old and a successful actor. Remind me of this the next time I appear to take a condescending attitude toward young people and they way they speak and write.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

9/02/2011 9:08 pm  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

Actors are lucky. They have coaches to teach the codes and regional accents.

During the (happily very few) years I spent teaching adolescents I learned to read even the silences which were as varied and nuanced as any verbal expression.

I don't find your writing condescending, btw. A more even handed blogger would be hard to find.

Many thanks for taking time to post.

9/03/2011 9:49 am  

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