Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Berks versus w*nkers

Some appropriately named
"members of the Berkeley Hunt" in action
The always interesting Robert Lane Greene of The Economist's Johnson blog has written a good piece on prescriptivism versus descriptivism which is a good read for any A2 students revising Language Discourses.

In it, he quotes Kingsley Amis who split the world of language commentators up into berks and w*nkers. (I'm asterisking w*nker to avoid this blog getting blocked by various school and college filters, when the etymology of the Cockney rhyming slang berk - short for Berkeley hunt is much ruder...you work out the rhyme or look here.)

It's a neat distinction and much more eloquently put than my own attempt on this blog post which used Hippies and Hitler at each extreme of the spectrum.

Greene concludes by saying

...that wherever we place ourselves on the berk-w*nker spectrum is arbitrary. It can only be defended with an appeal to a sense of style and taste, with a strong dash of self-deprecating humour. Anyone who gets red-faced insisting that their place on the berk-w*nker spectrum is the only place God intended language to be can be safely ignored.

 Wise words.

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