Dear users of the English lan­guage,


To coin a phrase of­ten seen on the in­ter­net, you’re do­ing it wrong. Or, to be some­what more ac­cu­rate, you’re do­ing it in­cor­rectly. ‘Oh, smash­ing,’ you’re prob­a­bly not think­ing, be­cause no one speaks that way, ‘here comes an­other con­ceited in­vec­tive rail­ing against the way young peo­ple speak.’ Well, no. This isn’t a di­a­tribe against the pro­gres­sion of the English lan­guage – it’s a plea to fight against its re­gres­sion. It’s no real derma off our pro­boscis if you be­gin a sen­tence with an ‘and’ or a ‘but’, use nouns as verbs (as much as we may per­son­ally dis­like hav­ing to ‘ac­tion’ things, rather than just do them) and end sen­tences with prepo­si­tions. You can even boldly split in­fini­tives, if that takes your fancy. Know­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween ini­tialisms and acronyms doesn’t have to be your purview, and the who/whom co­nun­drum re­ally only ex­ists for pedants these days, as much as it hurts to ad­mit. Stephen Fry’s sem­i­nal ex­pla­na­tion, in his fan­tas­ti­cally en­ter­tain­ing (and elu­ci­dat­ing) Stephen Fry’s Pod­grams, is that English is a fluid lan­guage – the crux is that we reach a con­sen­sus for how to de­fine and ar­tic­u­late new sit­u­a­tions, then coin ne­ol­o­gisms to suit. And if we all un­der­stand each other’s in­tent, then English has achieved its pur­pose. It’s one hell of an ar­gu­ment – how else do you de­scribe the in­ter­net with­out the word ‘in­ter­net’, or so­cial me­dia with­out the uni­ver­sally ac­cepted phrase? It’s just that thanks to both the for­mer and the lat­ter, there seems to be an in­ces­sant drive to cod­ify and con­dense the English lan­guage in a way that re­flects, rather eerily, the cam­paign of Newspeak en­acted by Or­well’s an­tag­o­nists in 1984. There’s a length and breadth of thought that only ac­com­pa­nies the prodi­gious, and even pro­lix, use of English. Since when did send­ing some­one to a dic­tio­nary be­come a bad thing? And, when it comes to the more ver­nac­u­lar side of things, can a sar­donic ‘WTF’ ever match the sheer plea­sure, the pure cathar­tic bliss, of a ve­he­ment and well-placed ‘What the fuck?’ Does it af­ford an op­por­tu­nity to sea­son the ex­pec­to­ra­tion with your own per­sonal flair – ‘What the ac­tual fuck?’, ‘What the deep-fried fuck?’ or even a left-field ‘What the shit?’ No, and ‘WTS’ will just con­fuse ev­ery­one in­volved. As the ever-elo­quent Fry states, “Does any­one let the trip­ping of their tongues against the tops of their teeth trans­port them to giddy eu­pho­ria?” This is the po­ten­tial of the English lan­guage that you’re squan­der­ing each time you ut­ter, ‘obvs, bae.’ English is such a beau­ti­ful lan­guage that has the po­ten­tial not just to de­scribe the va­garies and nu­ances of the world that sur­rounds us, but de­fine the in­cred­i­ble per­sonal, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal events that un­fold ev­ery day. So, please, use it to its full ex­tent, or GTFO.

Kind re­gards,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.