I am blogger in his fifties, and I have been brought up to believe that English is a language that sings. It is a language that has been used by such poets as Wordsworth and Tennyson, and it had graced the pages of such playwrights as Shakespeare and Sheridan, and to this day it has a resilience, power, and glory which puts so many of us to shame.
What would be more natural then for me to scream out in frustration, and rant on infinitum about the bastardisation of English, and the current poverty of the spoken and written word. I should be writing to the editor of the Times in protestation. I should be “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” , while at the same time writing to my member of parliament. Finally a scathing letter should be sent to the the Oxford English Dictionary about the words or phrases of “Selfie”, “Twerk”, “Show-rooming” and “binge-watch”; all of which may be coming to your screen shortly.
So why is it that I sit in front of the screen with a rueful smile upon my lips, and why do I so calmly type in these words.
Surprisingly it is a question of historical precedents, for, if truth be told, have we not been here, or have our ancestors not been here, before. Let me take you back to Geoffrey Chaucer, and his work, the Canterbury tales, I have always been taught that when reading a book you should begin at the beginning, so let us look at the first 10 lines of the prologue. First the original text, and then at a translation
1: Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
2: The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
3: And bathed every veyne in swich licour
4: Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5: Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
6: Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
7: Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
8: Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
9: And smale foweles maken melodye,
10: That slepen al the nyght with open ye
11: (so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
How would Chaucer react if, by some divine or non divine inspiration, he were to see his words in translation? Might he not complain and state, just as we stated now, of how a once beautiful language has been polluted, bastardised, or simply destroyed?
I would imagine he would make certain protestations, but then are not such changes inevitable? We may loathe the current vernacular, and we may well grind our teeth at the ignorant use of meaningless words or phrases-LIKE. We often want to scream at the modern youth, sorry “youff” culture, with their imbecilic Oh my God’s and “like” insertions, but isn’t it the truth that we have heard and experienced such rantings and ravings before?
We were children once, we were reprimanded for our imbecilic or at least sloppy English, and just as we do now, our parents lamented the downgrading of English, and the destruction of their mother tongue.
So a word to the wise, all my fellow English language lovers, be careful of what you complain about, for your grandparents or seniors amongst you have long memories, and they may still take you to one side!
Not only that. English is a living language, it has changed over the centuries as it has reflected changes within society, so how can we demand that it remains unchanged now?
Saying that, if one more “youff” says the word “Like” or the acronym O.M.G (oh my God, for the un-cool or uneducated amongst us) in front of me I will………!-
see what I mean!
- Selfie considered for inclusion in Oxford English Dictionary (telegraph.co.uk)
- Is it time to teach text speak in schools? (theflybymuse.com)
- Practyssinge the Kynge’s Englysshe (themothsreturn.wordpress.com)
- The Negative Canon: Apostrophe’s (caxton1485.wordpress.com)
- Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: Background (maghsblogger.wordpress.com)
- Character Sketch Of Chaucers Knight (buyessayscheap.wordpress.com)
- Grand Theft Auto is The Canterbury Tales (graysonqueen.wordpress.com)
- Canterbury Tales… (glsh93.wordpress.com)
- ‘Selfie’ crowned word of the year for 2013 (globalnews.ca)
- Hygge and Honninghjerter (hughsfood.wordpress.com)