Not so much looking down as across..

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Queen's English

Like all would be-writers and aspiring bloggers I am fascinated by the written word. I am equally captivated by the spoken word. I love regional accents - as long as I can understand them.

I clearly remember when the Australian soap 'Neighbours' was screened on TV at home over twenty years ago. Initially I could not believe that anyone could mangle the English language so skillfully. Two years ago we visited my daughter who is living and working in Melbourne and we didn't need to use an interpreter.

Who are we the Irish to mock other peoples accents? What many outside of Ireland do not realise is that there are at least dozen very distinct accents in the small country of Ireland - sing song from Cork, staccato from Belfast, soft Scots in Donegal, flat Wicklow/Wexford, Soft quiet Galway, and a myriad of accents in between.

Britain is encouraging a revival of local accents - Geordie accents have become popular on the back of Cheryl Cole and Ant and Dec; The Beatles made Liverpudlian fashionable, Eastenders instructed us on how to understand Cockneys and TV News Anchors tend to be either Welsh or Scots. Come to think of it, does anyone speak like Her Majesty any more?

When the English language travels the small pond to France, it becomes alluring and sexy. When it travels in the opposite direction to the Americas it often develops a nasal twang. Words like flavour lose the u. My spellcheck will not accept anything other than US English as a result my RAM has been saved thousands of 'u's and other defunct letters.

They say if alchol were discovered in the last fifty years it would have been banned as the most harmful substance known to man. But we don't need scientists to tell us that. Our hangovers are proof enough. If you were given the task of inventing a common world language fifty years ago - you would never have thought of English. It is such a mad language. For a start vowels can have no sound or different sounds. Compare English with Spanish where the vowels always stay the same - an 'o' is always pronounced the same, and so on.

English has been a good language for elliptical writing and the same applies to the spoken word. Whereas Spanish might have five or even fifty funny accents, English can boast of hundreds or even thousands. My guess is that most native English speaking people would not succeed in learning English if it were not their mother tongue.

I hate laziness. I hate the way characters in the Coronation Street soap fail to finish sentences, or even words. There is after all a distinction between regional accents and bad English. Other languages often suffer the same fate.

French is a most wonderful language - it is enchanting when spoken well - and it usually is. But what about all the redunant letters? - C'est in English would become - say - and in Spanish - se. Think of the thousands of letters that could be spared by leaving out the ones that are not pronounced. Think of the rain forests that cold be saved - maybe even the Bois de Boulogne, who knows - que sais je? (Montaigne)

But at the end of the day the Engliszh language will do whatever it wants. People have treid to control and cordon it - with 100% lack of success. English does not boast a committee of experts like in France to tell us how to spell and how to pronounce. That is the joy of English - it is the most anarchic language in the world while aspiring to be the most proper.

To give the Queen her due, she certainly speaks 'proper' English - but does anyone else?

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