I’ll admit that the title is a touch melodramatic but I am slightly troubled.
I am a native English speaker from Ireland. Had I been born 200 years earlier, today I would be welcoming the press into my living quarters, on this – the date of my birth, to reminisce about what it was like to live through the Famine, the American Civil War, the Industrial revolution and what Coca Cola tasted like when cocaine was an essential ingredient of the drink.
As I am Irish I would also have been born speaking a different language – Irish – which suffered a near fatal wound when the Famine happened, and which survives on a life support machine of state subsidy today. Everybody born in Ireland can speak fluent English. Irish language schools and TV stations and newspapers (and road-signs) are heavily supported and promoted. While I support these initiatives I’m also cognizant of the fact that the Irish language is effectively a dead language. It will never again be a language important enough where people can get by in the world without also speaking English. The rights and wrongs of that opinion are open for debate but that’s not what I am rambling on about today.
Today my concern is for the English language and how abhorrent the recent attacks on the tongue have become. And I blame consumerism (always blame a broad, unidentifiable and unquantifiable enemy).
Languages develop and evolve depending on location. This I know (Afrikaans versus Dutch; Canadian French versus French French). New generations adapt the language to suit their own circumstance. Therefore I have no problem with new additions to the English language – ‘seflies’ and ‘lol’ and the like are perfectly fine as they are practical, useful additions to help the smartphone generation with communication.
My problem is the ‘because I’m worth it’ school of language development – the addition of words to the language by PR companies to convince us that we are unique and special and deserving of happiness. And by happiness I mean stuff – physical products.
I went into a shop yesterday to investigate a new computer. My eyes were immediately assaulted by a poster screaming ‘Make your life BLINGALICIOUS’.
‘Blingalicious’. What the actual f*ck. I gagged slightly. A little hint of vomit came to my throat. The word ‘bling’ is just about tolerable. But that ‘-alicious’ tagged onto the end is just some cloying, creepy attempt by a marketing company to convince me to buy crap.
I turned on my heel and flounced out of the shop – I’ll by my computer online (another new word I am completely fine with), thank you very much.
On the bus on the way home I pulled the monthly free magazine GCN from my stylish man-bag. GCN is the Irish gay magazine with film and music reviews – it’s a lifestyle magazine (another just about tolerable expression). I flicked through it and came to a restaurant review of a new hotspot (bleurgh) in Kilmainham, called Union8.
I have passed this place previously and vowed never to darken its doors because it advertises itself as an ‘eatery’ – possibly my most detested word ever. However the magazine really aimed the knife for my heart, by describing the place as an ‘eatery that will be beloved by foodies everywhere.’
What in Dolly’s good name is a ‘foodie’ meant to be? Someone who enjoys tasty food? Doesn’t that signify pretty much everyone? The restaurant review (in my OCD addled brain) should have called the place a ‘café that everyone will enjoy’. Is calling it an ‘eatery that will be beloved by foodies everywhere’ meant to encourage me to go? Does pretending that because I – like every other Tom, Dick and Sally – also enjoy food, make me somehow special?
I think not.
I was quite cross by the time I got home. I switched on the TV. To have my eyes and ears instantly assaulted by an advert for a yoghurt which they had the gall to describe as ‘Mullerlicious’.
I wept a silent tear of paranoid, futile rage, turned off the telly and went for a walk.
I am being highly irrational I know, and exaggerating wildly.
But that’s OK.
Because I’m worth it.
2 thoughts on “Save the English language”
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