Maintaining The English Language

If you’re a language geek then you’ll like this. If not, you might as well skip it.

My History of the English Language professor Whitney Bolton at Rutgers University sparked my interest in how our English words evolved from other languages and continue to evolve today. No word’s spelling or meaning is ever set in stone. It slowly changes over time according to how people speak and use those words whether its in slang, business or academia.

What keeps this in my mind nowadays is the whole backlash against gay “marriages”. I’ve heard many people say that they just don’t want them to be called “marriages”. “Union” is okay, but not “marriages”, which makes me laugh. Because at the heart of them, they mean the same thing. The meaning marriage is already different from what it was when my grandparents were my age. Even the OED lists that “marriage” is now used for “long term relationships of people of the same sex”. So I’m sorry to break it to the religious right. Your battle to police the English language is already lost.
As for the spelling police, it’s a lost cause. There are at least four different ways to spell certain words depending on which English speaking country you are in: England, USA, Canada, Australia and all the other English speaking former colonies of the Empire. So I had a good chuckle today when my mother-in-law, also an English major, sent me the following email.

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of the “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with the “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza.

Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

So if we’re not careful will this mean that our language will devolve into its basal form? I think not. It ain’t so easy as that. 😉


Typical Vancouver Summer Weekend

Despite the sketchy weather (would it just rain already!), the weekend turned out to be quite interesting and fun.

Saturday was the annual Yaletown Days. And it was definitely Yaletown in all it’s glory – expensive cars and cute dogs. There were some pretty cool vintage cars, everything from what were originally called horseless carriages, to 1950s convertibles to 1960s Minis to low riders to 2000 Minis. One thing that was obviously missing were SUVs, not that I’m complaining.

Then came the doggie pageant – Yaletown’s Cutest Dog. And on a slow day Yaletown is filled with cute, spoiled, overly pampered pooches. You had your familiar cute doggie faces that you see everyday and some new ones that came out just for the show. And their owners. Now they’re not as bad as stage mothers, but you did have ones that brought their pooches dressed in costume and pushing them to perform. After the first dog did the first trick, some of the owners got a bit catty. “If I knew we could perform tricks, MY puppy would have gotten into the final round”…bitch, bitch, bitch. But in all honesty, it was a cute pageant, and I don’t know how the judges could have made a choice.

After a bag of mini-donuts it was on to the fireworks!

Armed with a bucket o’K-n-F-n-C, blankets and a flashing l.e.d. dolphin, we sat back along the coastline in Vanier Park and took in the Celebration of Light (Symphony of Fire is a much better name). The Czechs were pretty dead on in their syncronisity, Canada blew, and China, well they have been blowing things up the longest, they were the best in my opinion.

Then after waking up very late on Sunday, I poured over Mists of Avalon. Then we went to a BBQ that Farshad organized since his DJ friend Ludo Llorca was in town. For a world famous DJ, Ludo was nothing what I expected – down-to-earth, sweet and very friendly. Anyway, we BBQ’d at Spanish Banks well into the night, accompanied by the primal sounds of a local drum circle.

All in all, your typical Vancouver summer weekend.