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.