The English Language.

As I do not speak any of those ancient languages that have come down from different civilisations, like Egypt, India, and China, I am not in a position to draw comparisons. What I do know is that as a result of Britain being invaded by the Germans, the French and the Scandinavians, we are fortunate that we have a very rich vocabulary, if we would only use it. I’m not talking about Shakespearean English, which in itself is incredible, but the language of today, which is there for all of us to use, but is constantly being corrupted. When I was a boy I rarely heard the types of epithets that even small children are using today, but I only found to be common usage when I joined the lower deck of the Royal Navy, and later worked in one of the toughest trades, the building industry. It astounds me therefore to find in a film, Love Actually, produced in this country, an highly imaginative production, and clever interspersion of psychological profiles, that has a young boy 10 years old, allegedly, conversing with his father using gutter language. Clearly it was an intention to show that the age differential meant nothing in this circumstance, but it jarred on the sensibilities of even me who has seen it all.

I question whether progress is not regressive by its very nature, as conversation, be it intelligent or otherwise, is being replaced by home entertainment, the computer and silence. The young are not being treated to the sort of vocabulary that my generation was on a daily basis. They are not reading classics for pleasure, rather than from school necessity, and widening their horizons, both in aspect and vocabulary. There is no shadow of doubt that adults today are more used to using gutter epithets as part of conversation than they ever were in the past, and this applies, I believe, more to the upper classes, and the lower classes than it does to the middle classes, who were always hidebound anyway. I take it that this usage is to demonstrate some intellectual freedom, and a sort of strength of character, in men it would be called macho, but women also express themselves similarly.

Another aspect of the changes is the way in which the entertainment industry, when it discovers a success, such as the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice, that they introduce a cheaper version of the same story without the quality of dialogue and presentation, and follow this with an up-to-date, modern day version of nothing like the language in the original. This is not an isolated case, but repeated regularly. The full use of the language with all its colour, nuances and variety, is not only pleasurable to the individual, but adds so much to the overall sense of what is being depicted.

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