Sunday, October 28, 2007

Put up your hands, for 'tis the grammar police

The prescriptivists are in action again, this time targeting the grammatical accuracy of the BBC's presenters. According to Ian Bruton-Simmonds (a member of the Queen's English Society) in a report in today's Observer, BBC presenters' standards are slipping:

Broadcasters are said to make mistakes such as mixing up singulars and plurals and using 'may' instead of 'might'. One of the most common mistakes cited by language campaigners is the incorrect use of the word refute. They point out that the word means to disprove, not deny.
Their solution?

100 unpaid 'monitors' working from home would note grammatical slips or badly chosen vocabulary. The checkers would then report to a central adviser, who would write to broadcasters outlining what was said and what should have been said.
Oh dear...

Fears about language change are nothing new. Two years ago, Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow was cited as a terrible example to children both linguistically and behaviourally, while about 800 years ago, a homesick Norman monk complained about the ghastly "teeth-grinding" sounds of the English language as spoken by its working and middle classes.

Prescriptivists argue that the language should be controlled and regulated to prevent its decay, while descriptivists would argue that change is inevitable and beyond the regulation of government and self-appointed guardians. A note of sanity is raised towards the end of the article when Adam Jacot de Boinod, author of The Meaning of Tingo says "Language evolves and we should evolve with it".

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change
ENA6 - Language Debates

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

the solution is like some sort of gestapo, is it really worth being hot under the collar about this?

Dessy said...

but now we know that the French are regulating their language from the "infectious disease" of English by setting up an institution that creates French substitutes for English words and then implementing it by forcing civil servants to use it.

Bottom line is, i think this kind of regulation cannot work in the UK because the French are more patriotic to their language than the English are. i mean i heard that the French film industry is subsidised and protected against hollywood because they want to preserve their culture and language...

Dan said...

Maybe it's because their language isn't in the same globally dominant position as English and is therefore seen as an endangered species.

I agree with you that it won't work here, but then to my mind that's because British people don't really like being told what to say or think: there's a rebellious, subversive tradition in this country that kicks against authority...says a teacher lol

Dessy said...

that is true it's like with the whole pc thing, at first, everyone was into it because it socially desirable, (you can tell i learnt something yesterday, i hope i'm using it in the right context) anyway, now it's the in thing to rebel against the norm, if you get the time type in the " dumb blonde" in youtube and you get this woman who's ranting about let's stick it to the pc guys, but i'm not sure even she knows what she's talking about cos i listened to one of her broadcasts, and at the end i listened again and i still didn't get it...

Anyway the point is that now people are rebelling against pc cos they don't like being told what they can and can't say.