Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Talk to the hand cos the face ain't listening

As Jean Aitchison identifies in her excellent series of lectures The Language Web, concerns about changing language are often intertwined with concerns about standards of public behaviour and what might be termed "decency". In her "damp spoon" model, Aitchison observes a phenomenon among prescriptivists who view some aspects of language change as being as vulgar, crass or "common" as leaving a damp tea spoon in the sugar bowl after you've stirred your tea. Oh deary me...

What Aitchison adeptly points out with this model is that one person's exciting new word might be another person's bugbear: in other words, our responses to language change are heavily influenced by our responses to cultural and social change, or even our view of what makes "good manners".

And of course, all this is relative. One man's "chav" is another man's "pikey" and one woman's teabag in a mug is another woman's pot of Earl Grey. Or something like that...

Several new books reviewed in this weekend's Observer bring up this connection between language and good manners: Lynne Truss, whose massive bestseller
Eats, Shoots and Leaves, covered standards of punctuation and grammar, is one of the writers reviewed. Her new book Talk to the Hand apparently laments such linguistic horrors as Political Correctness and the "labio-dental fricative" that Wayne Rooney is so keen on uttering to nearby referees (although to be precise, isn't it an unvoiced labio-dental fricative? Tut, tut).

Take a look at the review here: Observer article

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change
ENA6 - Language Debates

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