Curiouser and Curiouser

Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English)…”

Lewis Carroll

Mr Carroll demonstrates abundantly throughout “Alice Through the Looking Glass” that, frankly, the idea that there is only one way to speak the English language, is utter drivellishness.

Well done such luminary and  esteemed bodies such as the French Academy, who set themselves up as the “guardians” of their language, legislating for words that they deign may be officially used (although, back in 2005, there were only on letter “P”).

Ironically, it was their compatriot Ferdinand de Saussure who defined “langue” and “parole” – i.e. the language as it is written (check out my passive) and the language as it is used every on the street, innit.

My point here is only that saying something is “wrong” in English means only that it sounds a bit weird and not that it is intrinsically “wrong”. As Scott Thornbury points out in his excellent blog, the Third Conditional (God love it) is the perfect example of just one language point that is undergoing a transitionary period – the “transition” doesn’t mean “wrong”.

There’ll be plenty of stuff for us to fight over here, then.

And to prove it, the WordPress spellcheck just put a pair of angry red lines under two of the three first words on this page.

Responses

  1. For example…

    Jamie Oliver, (the cheeky “mockney” who’s efforts to get Britain’s schoolkids eating healthily was met by a pressure group named “Mum’s Against Jamie Oliver”, whose response was to stick burgers through the bars of their kids’ school playground), doesn’t quite speak the way we teach our students to speak.

    See especially min 1.20. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x44WuD_qWsU

    Spot it? “what happens if you don’t do nothing about it?” Does it matter? Should the girl have said, “hang on a tick, Jamie, I think you’ll find you can’t use a double negative in English, doncherknow.”

    And what happens if we, as teachers, don’t do nothing about it? I think our students end up learning a language they won’t, in the real world, actually hear.


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