English sinks back beneath those waves
Manos has handed in an unusual document, denouncing modern English as a senile language misused by the undereducated. A fine report. Abuse like that could be a welcome stimulus to the anglophone world, less quick than it used to be to deliver a shrewd counterpunch below the belt. But of course it may be Manos is right, perhaps right even with his suggestions for measures of linguistic life support which include solitary life imprisonment for anyone advocating the closure of public libraries, and not less than twenty years with hard labour for anyone who proposes the conversion of a library into a ‘lifestyle centre’ .
But his report is unmanageably long; several pages under most of the headings. So we shall only cite his headings and a few of his examples for each. And we have split the whole thing into two parts to go in separate postings. The first, herewith, concentrates on failing control over form, inability to be simultaneously concise and explicit, and a feeble grasp of the underlying principles of good taste which allegedly once gave grace to every day’s English. The second part of his report (to appear at some future date) deplores the cultural decay.
Acronyms (as found in government websites or similar, or on the antisocial media, among whom must be included news reports on ‘business’, deserving particular opprobrium): Acoba; APPC; AtoS; CCRC; CDS; DIRC; DWP; FCA; HoLAC; IPSO; lol; namc; PFI; PHSO; PwC; tfif; RSC; SIS; TED; (R)USI If the average speaker of English can manage some 20,000 words of his language, it should be possible to find some either agreeable or appropriate name for such institutions, e.g. ‘Butterfingers’ or ‘Torquemada’
Vulgar Abbreviations: Abbreviation in itself is venial. The offence is in the vulgarity which the contemporary mind cannot help incorporating in its coinages. Telly for ‘television’; Oz for ‘Australia’; pee for ‘urinate’; wops for ‘wasp’ (or, when written with a capital, ‘Italians’); butt for ‘backside’; vibes for ‘sensation’; freebie for vitally necessary expenses-paid study trip abroad
Incorrect spellings. No excuses for mangling any of the following: idiosyncrasy; mediaeval; peddle; practise (vb); precede; (tennis) racquet; siege; clarionet; chrysoprase; manoeuvre; baldachin; Thessaloniki
Barbarous neologisms: edutainment; mis-spoke (= lied); vegeceutical; yogercise; homophobia (The merest glance in a Greek-English dictionary shows this coinage can properly only mean ‘fear of the similar’)
Bizarre misfitting of forms and meanings: eg aggravate (=/= irritate); careen (=/= to move rapidly); celibate (=/= chaste); flout (=/= flaunt); barrel (=/= move rapidly while being overweight); furling (=/= drifting); chastise (=/= rebuke); refute (=/= repudiate); profitability (=/= repeatedly indulged greed)
Insertion of meaningless syllables (mostly but by no means exclusively in spoken – or mumbled – language). Observably different social groups make different choices for plugging oral lacunae, with the first of the following favoured by the elderly and the second by everyone else down to the age of four: bloody; *******; like; sort of; like; don’t ya know (principally used by those over ninety);like; going forward (always used with a verb of future reference, therefore always unnecessary); like. Many other combinations match a very high frequency with a very low semantic content and often even lower truth content, eg we have set up an independent enquiry (common in political circles); mission successfully accomplished (common in military circles); the interests of the customer always come first (common in commercial circles); got a new album coming out soon, frequently heard on the BBC.
It is not surprising that women newsreaders on television who have been doing their jobs well for a decade or two are discontented at being replaced for no very clearly formulated reasons, although it is noticeable that they tend to be replaced by younger women. (This is claimed to show the wonderfully enlightened policy of the channel that used to employ them, ‘always seeking to offer equal opportunities for advancement to women, and keen to provide career opportunities for the younger generation’). However, it is pointless for them to grumble, and mistaken for their replacements to congratulate themselves on their success because with modern technological developments it’s pretty obvious that very soon all human newsreaders will be replaced by animations, and then after an exceedingly short interval by humanoid robots. These, too, will be predominantly female, but always good-looking (according to the criteria of advertising executives and managers in bulging grey suits). They will become progressively more outrageously beautiful, soon developing not merely fan mail but their ‘own’ twitter accounts, facebook pages and rival printed weekly journals, which always feature them on the cover, in various improbable (if not illegal) poses. They will themselves receive a large amount of air time, both in magazine programmes and in what (as the Syrian civil war continues to cause death and misery) (but mainly far away from the west) will still be officially termed news programmes though in fact being simply other magazine programmes. Soon new robot presenters will appear which the gutter media will hail with full colour ‘pix’ on pages 1 to 9 in print and five-minute videos online, as ‘sexy superstars’. They will be provocatively dressed, when dressed at all, and major segments of television and online time will be taken up with ‘spin-off’ soap operas giving detailed, implausible, and distasteful descriptions of the ‘lives’ and ‘adventures’ of the many rival ‘princesses’. Channel executives will continue to mock ‘critics who are stuck with their psychoses in the middle ages’. Large sections of commerce concerned with the media, retail trade, tourism, advertising, and fashion will throw wildly extravagant parties to celebrate the enormous profits they are making, even while other areas of the economy weaken drastically and in some cases come to a halt. Finally in the week when one channel’s soap opera screens, at 8 pm, a ten-minute fight between two of the best known topless robopresenters to an audience registered as 92% of the population, OECD governments will decide to take action, on the grounds that the major economies of the so-called developed nations are all in recession. However, before the necessary intergovernmental committees can be set up to organise the conferences to devise the road maps for the processes leading to the determination of what actions in what time frame may be needed to bring the situation under control in due course, the supervolcano in Yosemite erupts in an explosion greater than any in the planet’s history, bringing to an end what had been called human civilisation.
In the interests of gender equality BBC news programmes are in future to accord equal amounts of time to reports on female and male typhoons and tropical storms.
A Home Office spokesperson has confirmed that the new more stringent procedure for those applying to take British nationality on grounds of descent will include a test to check for satisfactorily high levels of xenophobia