Thursday, September 01, 2011

Ringing the changes

Following on from the last post about new words, here's a link to an article in The Daily Telegraph by Henry Hitchings. It's a good antidote to the plethora of grumpy responses to any new words announcement...they're not real words...they'll disappear next year...I've never heard that word so it can't exist...young people these days need a good beating and a hefty dose of national service...you know the kind of thing.

His argument is an interesting one which sees resistance to new vocabulary as a reflection of wider concerns:

Hostility to a new word (candidates from the latest Chambers might include “webisode” and “OMG”) is fraught with unarticulated concerns about class, politics, propriety and taste. Right now, the pace of linguistic change seems high, and those concerns are supercharged. Thanks to modern technology, the volume and rapidity of communication have increased, and the flow of information is constant.
If the comments after many of the recent articles about language change are anything to go by, Hitchings is spot on with his argument. A quick trawl of discussions about David Starkey's deluded comments on "Jafaican", or on the Daily Mail's coverage of Chambers Dictionary reveal racism, class snobbery and the casual denigration of single mothers and most young people, to name a few.

Hitchings is author of the excellent The Language Wars, which I've reviewed for emagazine here (and there's an interview with him in the latest edition if you have a subscription and want to read more about why his book is great for A level English Language students).

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