Sunday, October 31, 2004

Power to the people!

Hmm, so, no comments in the box last week must mean that you were all out surfing real waves in half term instead of cyberwaves, and definitely not that I'm sitting here talking to myself. (Doesn't it?....)

Anyway, this week sees the venerable political journalist John Humphreys touting his new book, Lost for Words: the Use and Abuse of the English Language. In the extract published in The Times and linked below, he gives some interesting examples of the mangling of meanings by politicians, and goes on to consider what powers could be used to stop this.

He first considers the kind of power that could be vested in a formal language authority, like the Académie française. This would have the power to make laws to regulate acceptable language usage. He also considers the kind of power that could be derived by reference to the usage of the greatest writers in the language. He regards both as fraught with difficulty.

Instead, Humphreys argues that the only way to prevent the 'use and abuse' of language, and to moderate what he assumes readers agree are the excesses of contemporary language change, is reasoned debate - by the people, for the people - about what langauge usage is acceptable. He places this squarely within democratic tradition.

This democratic tradition is of course a fine thing, but if you could just give your teachers a break by not inviting them to debate the use of the word 'innit' as used throughout your next essay, I know they'd really appreciate it!

Click on the link below to go to The Times home page; type 'disinterested' into the search box; click on 'search the site'; then click on the article's title. Remember that with The (stingy) Times you can only read this article for free within seven days of its publication.

You're a disinterested ****!

Académie française


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