Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dumb and Dumber

“You use old-fashioned words,” they protested. ‘They’ were a bunch of what passes for intelligentsia at the BBC nowadays. Apparently, on reading one of my pieces, they had had to go to the dictionary to check on a few words. I suppose I should be grateful, (and surprised), that they had a dictionary but perhaps they borrowed one from the cleaning lady.
I’m not really sure what constitutes an old-fashioned word but as long as it doesn’t resemble the new ones that crop up in text messages and E-Mails, I’m happy to be accused of using them.
We had an E-Mail from our teenage daughter at college in America and, once Bletchley Park have run it through one of their machines, I’m sure it will prove to be an interesting missive.
There is a move afoot to remove dead languages from the school curriculum and I suppose they mean Latin and Greek, although on present form they might just as well include English. When I was at school I admit that I wasn’t too keen, reasoning that my chances of bumping into Herodotus or Horace on the street for a chat were slim. Aristophanes might have been interesting, however, – he was the W.S. Gilbert of his time and seems to have been a fun guy. And talking of Gilbert, he’d have had a tough time if he’d stuck to the new-speak of today’s youngsters. It’s difficult to write catchy lyrics in text.
English has, or had until recently, the widest vocabulary of any language and why it should be necessary to allow words which are, to use a phrase that will live in infamy, ‘fit for purpose,’ lapse, simply because the education system can’t spell them, beats me. The subtleties of language are one of the joys of reading good literature but I suppose today’s generation doesn’t do subtle.
And, if you want to see just how dumbed down (a modern term, at last!) the English language has become, just listen to a government speech, in which the paucity of originality will leave you breathless.
But then, of course, Dan Brown seems to have done pretty well out of it.



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