Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Why death of the Queen's English Society leaves me lost for words

How ironic that amidst all the recent royal hullabaloo, the Queen's English Society packed up its tent and deserted this world.

Now, I'm not one to get overconcerned about this kind of thing, to the extent that I don't know if overconcerned is even a proper word. And if so, does it take a hyphen? And can you start a sentence with and?

True, I wince at the misuse of apostrophe's - see? - and any time I see the acronym LOL I alert the constabulary.

But there's something cooky about making a fetish of rules, and the trouble with such societies is that their raison d'etre is to tell people where they're going wrong. They're ever at risk of drifting into pedantry, an unattractive trait punishable by a poke in the eyelobe.

It's like venturing into the classics. I learned a small amount of Latin at school, and liked it so much I learned it again later.

But I've learned too that classicists are a collection of snooty twits, who've contributed more to the decline of the ancient languages than have all the modernising bureaucrats in Christendom, if that's where we live.

I appreciate that the motivating factor of the Queen's English Society was a love for the language and a dislike of its being mangled by the mob. But who makes the rules? I, for one, cannot consider the expression 'the Queen's English' an apt one, as the monarch rarely speaks English properly, and seems incapable of pronouncing the letter "r".

For an example of how poorly the Queen speaks English, check out the following: www.youtube .com/watch?v=seJXKbPlrAg.

Still, I suppose the Queen's English Society is, or was, more concerned with the written rather than the spoken wordulation.

The writing was on the wall for the society when none of its 1,000 members volunteered for organisational roles.

Chairman Rhea Williams announced to an empty public square: "Lots of societies are having problems. Lives have changed dramatically over the past 40 years. People don't want to join societies like they used to."

Ain't that the truth? There are probably just as many citizens concerned about the language, but nobody wants to do stuff, not if it means leaving the house.

To rub wotsname into the wound, an Anti-Queen's English Society has started up online.

In a sentence far too long to reproduce en masse in a newspaper, they promise to 'begin with an account of language that presupposes the fallacies inherent within assertions that put deficit perceptions of certain linguistic usages', er, etcetera.

To borrow an expression popular with young persons: WTF. Even in the whole sentence, it isn't clear where the deficit perceptions are put.

Or, indeed, what they are.

Without wanting to sound controversial, I believe language is about communication. I don't object to the abbreviations of texting.

On average, it takes me 42 minutes to type a one-sentence text, because my iPhone was designed for little elves with tiddly wee fingers.

Anything that reduces the time wasted on such curse-inducing tomfoolery is welcome.

But misspellings (and, yes, I did have to check that), multiple exclamation marks, incorrect tenses (footballer: "I've been and went and missed the ball"), and perhaps even an overuse of parenthesis may henceforth - archaisms, that's another one - flourish unimpeded, now that the Queen's English Society is dead.

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