Gransnet forums


Evolution of the English Language

(58 Posts)
Rufus2 Sat 19-Oct-19 13:28:55

"How the Internet ushered in a Golden Age of Eloquence"
Not sure if this is the correct Forum, but here goes.
The above remarks are taken from an article in our today's paper reviewing a book by a Gretchen McCulloch
One small para. caught my eye;
"There's no moral virtue in using language in the most uptight way. What we think of as the canon of traditional English usage, a lot of those rules are there to appeal to dead people. Why not write for the people who actually exist?"
She then goes on to discuss how your use of internet language denotes your age and generation and classifies us in various groups.
Quite interesting and amusing! Partly aimed at people who struggle with "l'emoji juste", as she says. I was going to scan/copy/paste sections, but it's nearly bedtime! hmm

DoraMarr Sat 19-Oct-19 14:02:25

I’m ambivalent about this. I’m enough of a pedant to be irritated by “your” instead of “you’re”, and “must of” really grates, but I can also see that language has to evolve, and the prevalence of texting and emojis has got to be considered as part of that evolution. After all, we use “don’t, can’t “ etc and don’t consider them ungrammatical or sloppy. There is English and English: the language we use formally, at a job interview, for instance, is different from the casual language we use with family. Perhaps there is room for emojis and text- speak too.

phoenix Sat 19-Oct-19 14:09:50

DoraMarr Agree with you on "of" when it should be "have"

Also "your". Some young people I know posted on Facebook yesterday re their delight at how well their son is doing with his spelling tests at school.

I was sadto read "Well done (name) your doing so well!"

samanthagower83 Thu 23-Apr-20 11:44:12

Recently, I read the guide on writing abstracts and found myself thinking the same. It is written in great and easy language but still, I remember my university grammar books where was written another. Or am I exaggerate?

Witzend Thu 23-Apr-20 11:58:05

One thing that really grates on me, although it’s almost universal now, is ‘like’ instead of ‘as if’.

As in, ‘She looks like she’s lost weight,’ etc.

It grates most particularly when uttered by upper-crusty people in some TV prog. or series set decades ago. They’d never have said it, grrrr!
Whether script writers/editors don’t know or just don’t care I wouldn’t like to guess.

Ditto the same sort of people in the same fictional era saying, ‘She fell pregnant.’ No!!!

sodapop Thu 23-Apr-20 12:44:10

I agree Witzend what would one have to tumble onto to "fall pregnant" Answers in a plain brown envelope please smile

Chestnut Thu 23-Apr-20 12:55:45

If the use of casual language takes over, and formal language becomes extinct then the English language will go rapidly downhill.

Grandma70s Thu 23-Apr-20 13:17:15

I don’t think I’m pedantic, but I do like English to be correct, especially when written down. Everyday conversation is a little different and I am more relaxed about it, but still cringe at errors like ‘between you and I”.

Gretchen McCulloch is Canadian. I doubt if that makes as much difference to her views as would be the case if she was from the USA.

GagaJo Thu 23-Apr-20 13:22:25

My Y12 class are currently studying the music of the rapper Dave. Some interesting language use! I love language change. English has always been a language in flux. Early English was almost exclusively German in origin. (Excuse the geekiness!)

grandtanteJE65 Thu 23-Apr-20 13:32:05

I doubt that casual language will supersede formal language, but formal language changes too in the course of centuries.

I can remember my parents receiving a letter from their bank during the 1950s that stated,

"Dear sir or madam,

We beg to intimate that your current account with us is overdrawn."

No-one starts a business letter like that now, and it was old-fashioned then.

vampirequeen Thu 23-Apr-20 16:26:00

English has never remained unchanged. Language changes and develops all the time.

Old English
Swa cwæð eardstapa,
earfeþa gemyndig,
wraþra wælsleahta,
winemæga hryre:

Middle English
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Tudor English
When in disgrace with Fortune and mens eyes,
I all alone beweepe my out-cast state
And trouble deafe heaven with my bootlesse cries,
And look upon my selfe and curse my fate.

Georgian English
Obituary of Adam Smith 1791
Being in his youth a hard student and of a cachectick habit, his appearance was ungracious and his address awkward. His frequent absence of mind gave him an air of vacancy and even of stupidity; and the first day he dined at Balliol College, a servitor seeing him neglect his dinner, desired him to 'fall to', for he had never seen such a piece of beef in Scotland

Modern English
He’s a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his nowhere land,
Making all his nowhere plans
For nobody.

Text speak and abbreviations such as lol, asap, and gosh are examples of the language continuing to develop.

Callistemon Thu 23-Apr-20 16:40:01

Reading your post, I am struck by how romantic and poetic are the sounds of Middle and Tudor English when compared with today's prosaic prose.

My post may denote my age Rufus

However, I can also speak some Strine, much of which may closer to 18th Century British English than the language spoken in England today.

GagaJo Thu 23-Apr-20 16:41:57

LOVELY vampirequeen. I DO love our language. And of course, our bard invented so many words / phrases that are currently in use.

Alexa Wed 06-May-20 10:23:31

Gagajo wrote:

"--- I love language change. English has always been a language in flux. Early English was almost exclusively German in origin."

And yet English was at its zenith at the time of Shalespeare who could use vernaculars and posh English of politics, the classics, and law.

English is giving way to the graphic image which rules all our lives and insidiously inserts poor quality themes and values because images are an easy idiom much easier than the spoken word.

Alexa Wed 06-May-20 10:24:21


FarNorth Wed 06-May-20 10:38:03

a lot of those rules are there to appeal to dead people

Some of us are still clinging to our perches!

Elegran Wed 06-May-20 10:52:46

It depends on what you are writing, and who is going to read it. Some things need to be very exact in how they name things and describe them, others are more casual

Take garden plants. Different parts of the country have different names for the same plants, some of the names very old, and describing their appearance or their use or some legend attached to them. Move a few miles away and the same thing could be called something else - or a different plant has the same name as another somewhere else.

If you were using a plant as a medicine, this could lead to disaster! The official, scientific name for it is much safer, and for nurseries that is an accurate way of making sure that you sell people what they expect to get.

Alexa Wed 06-May-20 11:32:50

Elegran, I too like explicit language for the reasons you gave, and more.

I also like poetic language which is at least as neglected these days as explicit language.

Alexa Wed 06-May-20 11:36:47

Vampire Queen wrote:

"Text speak and abbreviations such as lol, asap, and gosh are examples of the language continuing to develop."

Yes. But although these abbreviations help communications, in other ways we are becoming less literate than we were when dialects and vernaculars flourished.

Elegran Wed 06-May-20 11:42:11

Reading old books and records can be a minefield, too, when usage changes with time. It is not so bad when the account is a a century old, and you are usually aware of the change - which has been gradual! In Victorian novels, there is often a popular male character who "makes love to all the women he meets" which didn't mean the same then as it does now - he would be a charmer who was generous with his compliments and attentions, but not a serial rapist!

When most people didn't exchange information so often, the changes were slower. With the coming of (almost) universal literacy and instant typed internet communication for all, change has speeded up.

Good or bad? Some of each. It is good that people communicate more. It is bad that a lot of the subtlety is lost. The use of jargon that only certain groups understand, mainly the young, has increased, and it is renewed often so that outsiders are kept in their place (When I asked in a thread what this new word "woke" meant I was told off for not " keeping up" with the terminology and thus being unaware of the current problems in society. Someone assumed that not knowing the buzz-word meant that I was "still asleep" to the reality that it referred to.)

MaizieD Wed 06-May-20 12:06:52

Well, the extract that the OP posted just sounds/looks stupid and patronising to me.
What on earth does 'using language in an uptight way' mean?

I suspect that most people 'use language' in the way that they are accustomed to use it; a way that is influenced by many things, e.g. culture, education, reading, context... Who the hell is she to make a value judgement, clearly meant to be derogatory, on how people use language?

I've always thought that the purpose of language is communication. If you can't make yourself understood; if you can't alter your language according to your audience or the context in which you're using it then I feel that you've failed to learn that purpose somewhere along the line.

Of course it helps to be aware of contemporary usage but not knowing what all the current terminology, such as 'woke', is (I'm struggling to describe this ) is hardly a major sin. Weren't our parents mystified by some of the language we used in our youth?

What I do think is sad is that people can't enjoy our literary inheritance because the language is so different from (NB different from grin) what they are used to and they see no purpose in learning how it works. I feel that that is a consequence of increased tolerance of rapid language change and a feeling that anyone using older versions is somehow being 'uptight' in their usage...

Elegran Wed 06-May-20 12:36:20

Maizie By the time the poster accused me of being unaware of racism, sexism, agism etc etc, I had looked up the word myself, and from the uses I had found I deduced that it meant "has just woken up to things that most of us have known since Adam was a lad and which some people will probably still be doing when the last trump sounds, in spite of all our efforts over the years"

MaizieD Wed 06-May-20 12:42:49

@Elegran grin

A Gnet poster being that rude shock

What treatment would I get if I asked what 'gouged' means? I've always thought it's meant a very roughly made hole or incision in something. It seems to now mean a price increase... eh ?confused

Elegran Wed 06-May-20 12:44:39

Gouging holes in our bank balances?

Witzend Wed 06-May-20 12:44:42

I do think evolution of the language is a rather different thing from sloppiness.
One example of evolution I can think of off the cuff, is ‘nice’, which used to mean something different.

Ditto ‘vicious’, which I gather - at least according to Jane Austen’s usage - used to mean someone with vices such as gambling or excessive drinking.