Choice of English

A virus attacked my computer just as I was about to finish this post. It took the Computer Guy on the Fly about an hour and a half to repair everything because the wireless router also caught something. So here is what I intended to post Monday evening. Tuesday’s entry will follow later.

A quick update: I finished 44 Scotland Street (“What I’m Reading Now,”) and found it a major disappointment. It has no real ending except for a conclusion of sorts about the painting, as the book is a series of short stories about the people who reside at the Scotland Street address. I was amused that the map of the country omitted Glasgow. It reminded of a weather map I saw once when I was on business in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It included Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Atlantic City, with nary a sign of Philadelphia. AMS also confirmed my view that Edinburgh was indeed stuffy. Based on the characters in 44 Scotland Street, much stuffiness remains.

Despite the drawbacks of his recent novels, AMS has a terrific facility with English, which leads me into today’s topic. I’ve encountered two commentaries on the evolving nature of the language.

The first was an article in the Courant some months ago that explained the derivations for town names so common to Connecticut and other parts of New England. We have a great number of towns that end in ’bury (fort), ’wich (trading place or port), ’sex (place where Saxons lived), and ’chester/’cester (camp). Their origins form a salad bowl, as ’bury came from Anglo-Saxon (Old English), ditto ’sex, while the castra locations arrived with the Romans. Rob Kyff doesn’t mention it, but ’wich may have come from Old English, or from Latin.

Globish for Beginners” also discusses the word castra, and demonstrates how the British conquerors imported words from the places it occupied: jungle and bungalow being two of the most common. Isaac Chotiner, reviewing Globish by Robert McCrum, doesn’t mention it but on this side of the pond the Native Americans gave us squash, canoe, succotash (yuk!), and so forth.

Globish is the word created to describe the language spoken by, for example, “European officials calming financial markets by uttering stock phrases on television.” God help them if they’re trying to speak Alan Greenspanish. McCrum’s argument is that Globish has primarily an economic function resembles the patois or pidgin English (“pidgin” being a corruption of the word “business.”)

Chotiner faults McCrum and Jean-Paul Nerrière, inventor of the word Globish, for believing that people will not want to learn formal English if they can rely on Globish. I’m not sure whether it matters at this point. If Globish is primarily a language of trade, then in another twenty years, Globish will have died down and we’ll all be learning speaking Mandarish and deciding whether to learn formal Mandarin (which is a Portuguese word).


One Response to “Choice of English”

  1. Down the Rabbit Hole With Trend Micro « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] I should have listened to the computer guy who came to rid the machine of its virus last year. (“A Choice of English.” But I couldn’t find the program he mentioned as I misunderstood what he said. Anyway I […]

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