Never seen nothin' like itLanguage eh? It's a weird and tricky thing. Even though I may not always write so good, I am of the opinion that there are rules to be observed and there is such a thing as good English. Ok, call me a fascist but I assure you the rest of my tendencies are thoroughly to the left.
I was absolutely thrilled then to read this extract from John Humphrey's book. Although it seems he may be treading ground that Don Watson has already covered, I have to admit that Humphrey's version seems a tad more entertaining. His description of language pendants described several people I know:
The Pedants are those who think there is only one thing that matters: observing the rules. They will avoid a split infinitive however convoluted the resulting sentence may sound. They cannot see a dangling participle without wanting to hang it in the right place. Solecisms are scars on their backs. They feel almost physical pain when they see apostrophes in the wrong place and commas where no pause is intended.
There are fewer and fewer people in this world who wince when they see 'vegie's' on sale or a shop offering 'CD's'. People who take personal offence at such language are uncommon these days. They are swamped by those who tell us that language doesn't matter as long as people understand you. Understanding something is just the first step. It's when you move beyond understanding that the real magic starts to happen. I may understand what the language of a poem is saying but it wouldn't be a very good poem if that's as far as it went.
I don't think it's too much to ask to extend this extra dimension to everyday speech and writing. No, I don't think we should all start talking and writing as if we were bards but I do think a certain respect for language would make life a little more interesting. I don't want to hear of another document being 'socialised' or that 'going forward' we'll be doing such and such (well, actually I prefer going backwards so you can count me out of that one) or that 'we'll take this offline' when they really mean we'll talk about this later.
I accept that language changes, I accept that subverting language conventions can be effective, what I don't accept is pure laziness. I also don't accept the ghetto-ising and jargonising of language until it is beyond the comprehension of everyone except the person who wrote it. Are you listening project managers?
* A gold star to the first person who notes every error in this post. This does not include the ironic use of poor language in the title and the first paragraph. (In fact, if you didn't realise it was ironic you are immediately disqualified).