Thursday, May 13, 2004

Contempt of court

So, this week I'm thinking about my forthcoming jury service and lo and behold, what do I find in the quality press but news that the country's new judges are being issued with a great big doorstop of a book giving them advice and guidance about equality under the law. Quite right and proper too, but what's interesting for us here is the way in which contemporary language change is defined by this advice.

In the article in The Times linked below, we see advice about word class usage - "black" must only be used as an adjective not a noun; about the use of "British" as a synonym; about the process of pejoration; and about politically correct terms for people who may experience social disadvantage.

What is also interesting about this, of course, is what it says about the most recent crop of judges. Pragmatically, this advice assumes that its reader needs to be told about equality. This suggests that new judges are either living in a social environment completely detached from the reality of modern Britain, or they are so entrenched in racist attitudes that they need to be told directly where the institution of the law draws the line that they must not cross. Either way, it could be argued that this is evidence to support the idea that language change is something that people in positions of power follow, not lead.

To read the article in The Times, you have to fiddle about a bit again, I'm afraid.
1) Click on the link below to the homepage of The Times
2) Type "Judges told" into search box and click on "go"
3) When the search enquiry box comes up, click on "search" in the left hand side "search the site" box
4) Click on "judges told to watch their language in changed society"
5) Come back and post your thoughts and comments!

Judges told to watch their language in changed society

Pejoratives and the process of pejoration


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