20160524 Campaign for Real English

While we are fussing about Brexit, there is another, equally insidious attack on the fabric of society as we know it: the increasingly poor use of English in media and government, and the increasing adoption of derivative English into the core of English.

It's time to fight back. In conjunction with www.pleasebeinformed.com, the fight-back starts here.

The threat to Real English does not only come from words and phrases imported from users of derivative English, it also comes from relatively recent development of the habit of the failure to correctly use inflection, a habit that has largely been driven by the media which, some years ago, developed an approach of emphasising every third syllable of a sentence, regardless of the impact that made on the sense intended to be conveyed. The moving of emphasis within words has been used to "modernise" a fully functional language - for example, the use of harASSment instead or HARRassment. Worse, generations of British schoolchildren have been utterly failed by a succession of so-called teaching methods which have abandoned the basic teaching of the language to young children, so preventing the formation of good habits. Add to that trends in which teachers do not correct errors, even errors as to the use of the wrong words, and we find that those in their 20s and 30s are unable to communicate in clear and correct English. Only last week, BBC Radio 4 carried an interview with an author who used the word "weary" for "wary," a common mistake that can only have arisen as a result of systemic failures across the education system. Regrettably, it is now clear that many teachers are, themselves, the product of this failed system.

English is surprisingly precise but it allows for its temporary twisting for fun and emphasis. However, those temporary twists, often because of their spread via news and entertainment channels which are seen as leaders of fashion or, even, authoritative, become widely used in circumstances where the users and those who read or hear them do not realise that the use was a deliberate and temporary contortion.

The result is that, often, expressions which patently do not carry the meaning the user intends.

This is dangerous: where safety notices give wrong information, where product instructions say to do the wrong thing, where in a discussion one person says something the other finds offensive. Communication is the lifeblood of our society. It literally flows through our people like blood through their veins.

Corrupting the language is like a cancer in the body: a mutation that can cause widespread harm and, ultimately, kill.

This is why we need to restore English to its correct place as the ligua franca (see the irony there?) of the world and to clarify what English is correct and what is not.

It is the language of international diplomacy, the language of commerce and industry and trade, the medium in which speakers of other tongues find common ground.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the restoration of Real English is of as much importance to the world's people as any other cause, including global warning and terrorism.

The undermining of language is a tool of extremism: the use of correct English is the tool of the centre, of the moderate.

Of course, language must develop to meet changing circumstances but it should not do so in a way that undermines the existing strengths, balances and culture that a long-term language brings.

Good English does not, necessarily, mean simple or "plain," English. English is a complex language and should remain so for it is in that complexity that its essential strength lies; that is why those with much simpler languages turn to English. Its ability to communicate complex matters simply is unparalleled.

So, join me in a few days for the launch at www.pleasebeinformed.com of The Campaign for Real English.

 


 

© 2016 Jefferson Galt
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