Language suicide - the modern trend of English | Part 3

in #history3 years ago

The two purest signs of a badly educated English-speaking person are:

  1. Improper connection between Germanic and Latinate sense. A great deal of Latinate sense is foreign to him, but instead of using a short Germanic or an easy word from the Latinate that he understands, he will, through desire to sound learned, misapply a long Latinate. For instance, he will mean WAS NEEDY or POOR (little money) IN CHILDHOOD, but will say WAS DISADVANTAGED (unfavourable conditions) in CHILDHOOD. Wouldn't you agree that an only child whose multi-millionaire father is a drunken bully and mother a homicidal maniac who tries frequently to hurl him overboard from the family yacht or drown him in the mansion's heated swimmingpool is more disadvantaged than a child in a poor but loving family?
  2. Lack of feeling for rhythm, euphony and idiom. For example in the following sentence his insensitive ear would not register the knock-kneed rhythm, the cacophonous iteration of TION and ITY, and the faulty idiom of AIM FOR.
    In the articulatory transmisSION of informaTION in an educaTION situaTION the funcTION of an effective teacher-communicaTION which aims for broad culture-value similaRITY and not exclusiVITY and multiforMITY may be impeded by out-dated elitist concepTIONS.

Translated into respectable English those silly ideas might run

Teachers wishing to stress cultural similarity and banish all signs of social class-distinction from their teaching may unwittingly impede their wish by allowing out-of-date upper-class ideas to obtrude when speaking to their pupils.

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It is such abominations whose foul phrase and inexact thought make the orthodox language of modern commerce and industry and the social sciences so contrary to the common genius of English and Science.

What is the basis of that genius? ACCURATE BREVITY. In English even euphony has been sacrificed to brevity in a process that for centuries has been dropping euphonious vowels from words, and words from sentences. Examples:

In 1350 NAME was pronounced with both vowels. By 1550 it "e" was mute. In 1550 the "ion" suffix in words such as DECISION that is now sounded "in" was then still pronounced with both vowels; and the "e" in past tenses such as PASSED was still clearly sounded (as in "sounded", but more deliberately); and there was still an "eth" termination as in WALKETH, which was pronounced with the "e" and the "th", both of which are now replaced by a single harsh "s" (WALKS), which is not euphonious as was the longer, softer "eth", but is much quicker. Words have also been shortened by cutting off whole sections:
omnibus/BUS, cabriolet/CAB, petroleum/PETROL, pianoforte/PIANO, withdrawing-room/DRAWINGROOM, and "influenza" and "telephone" is now formally written as "flu" and "phone". Sentences have been compressed, sometimes in the face of disapproving grammarians, without loss of meaning. HE DRESSED HIMSELF became HE DRESSED.

"Which" is commonly left out of THAT IS THE HOUSE which I HAVE BOUGHT. See what Shakespeare leaves out of the two following sentences (what is left out in small) : NO EVIL that is LOST IS WAIL'D for WHEN IT IS GONE. THE THIEF DOTH FEAR EACH BUSH to be AN OFFICER.

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My argument comes now to the main reason why so many English-speaking people commonly regarded as well-educated on account of university degree or high position are really ill-educated: they have not learnt respect for brevity or accuracy because they have not read even one great English classic properly, and what they read and write is only by sight, never by sound. Hence the paradox that almost any Cockney bus conductor or English farm-labourer with not much Latinate English but with customary straightforwardness and fine colloquial ear speaks far better English and has incomparably keener understanding of anything he cares to put his mind to that the stock English-speaking sociology graduate, who has a jumble of jargon Latinate and some ostentatious mathematics quite unfitted to his vague intellect: the working-men think and hear in clear English, the other flounders in a quagmire. May the time soon come when real scholarship, science, and English-speaking common-sense look critically at the simulacra of education who are now dignified only because few sensible people have taken the trouble to look carefully at their ridiculous pretensions.

The simple truth is that today the social sciences, especially sociology, have been vitiated by the very lowest pedantry (pedantry that stuffs itself with inane writings), and are growing dumps not only of ill-education but also of innate unintelligence: no young person with even a glimmer of common-sense would give three years of his study to the stodge called sociology that is offered at most English-speaking universities around the world. I have known intelligent undergraduates who mistakenly wandered into sociology, but each left it in disgust (and amusement) after easily passing the first year examination.

Those of you who have English as a second-language - if you have good taste in your language - you should, with some attention to the pointers already given , soon acquire ability to distinguish between firm and flabby English, even though you may never rise to fluency in speaking and writing English. Such discrimination will give you tremendous advantage in important dealings with English-speaking people, for from Ben Jonson's dictum "Language most shows a man: Speak, that I may see thee" you can deduce the golden rule: HE THAT SPEAKS OR WRITES INEFFICIENTLY WILL ACT INEFFICIENTLY.

If you've missed Part 1 of my Language suicide sequel, please follow this link
And for Part 2, click here

Resources and extra reading:
Ancient literature | Literary criticism | Greek cultural history | Rise and fall of the English language | Why reading in English isn't enough | History of the English language | How English evolved |


the modern trend of English

Or, the modern trend in English?

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