There’s been a chap in the news most of the past week. Open a newspaper he’s in it, turn on a television he’s on it.
You can make up your own mind how you feel about him without help from me. But I was struck by a TV report showing a poster taped to a lamppost in Durham (a city this man may or may not have had reason to visit). The poster said “Sack Cummins Now”.
It takes a special command of language to not spell Dominic Cummings’ name correctly. It’s hardly been difficult to spot recently.
And to put up a poster without bothering to check the spelling of the message you are promulgating, frankly . . . I was about to say it beggars belief. But, sadly, it doesn’t.
There, for all to see, is the state of the English language in the 21st Century. An uncaring attitude, a complete ignorance of correct spelling
Now I know, before you tell me, the old have always berated the young for not using English properly. And I have also been told many times that English changes, words take on new meanings, new spellings. Grammar changes, punctuation changes. They say that the language must, to stay healthy and relevant, evolve.
But English isn’t evolving, it is devolving. And the rate of de-evolution is quickening.
English teachers have written to me saying they, more than anyone, strive to uphold standards. They have my sympathy, indeed my support. But whatever they are doing, it isn’t enough. There is a mighty enemy working against them.
That enemy is social media, which carries a googolplex of opinions. People write what they think, fire invective, and bray support. I have no problem with that. But when these opinions are written, no one corrects the English. Anyone who tries is labelled a Grammar Nazi.
In days of old, if you saw a piece of writing it was in a newspaper, magazine or book and was in English that had been edited and corrected by people who knew that they were doing.
It doesn’t matter if it was provocative or placatory, an appeal for peace or a cry to man the barricades. When people read it, as a by-product they saw how words were correctly spelled and sentences properly constructed. Good examples of the language.
It’s a bit more difficult to identify good examples nowadays. As Mr Cummings might know.
Word of the week
A bar or strong pole used for leverage. EG: “Any object can be removed if you put a vectis in the right place.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org