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

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