I have become rather obsessed regarding the way that people speak English nowadays. This has nothing to do with accent, whether it be perceived to be posh or common, estuarial English or a barely comprehensible inner-city patios - I’m talking about what we say, rather than the way we say it. This is because I have developed a theory that even ten years ago people would find ordinary conversations, particularly amongst young people - verging on the incomprehensible.
As a person brought up like the restof my generation, I was raised with certain specific, social mantras, circling around in my brain. From the rather mundane “Don’t touch that, it’s dirty,” to the non specific - “Because I said so,” via “Don’t waste food, people in India are starving.” Alas, eventually, the time does come when you are warned - “You’ll go blind if you do that,” which is a rather weird thing for a parent to tell any young lad if you ask me. However, at least there was some sort of shape to a persons linguistics, because up until around the millennium a 70 year old could understand a 15 year-old - now I’m not so sure.
Yes, okay - during the 1960’s (when sex was first invented!) the hippies tried to alter verbal dynamics for a while - but, all this seemed to involve, was saying “man” at the end of every sentence and mumbling absurdities such as “far-out” and on occasions, even…”far-out, man.” However, even these early examples of witless social intercourse have the edge on the modern day equivalent, as in - “It is, what it is.” The next time this cliche is regurgitated in my hearing, I will demand to know - “What is?” and then punch someone. Anyway, with that newly minted, stock-phrase well and truly exposed - can I move on and berate young people as to what they say and the way they choose to say it? When holidaying in the UK, I will drop into a local pub close by where we stay to read the paper and scowl at the youngsters on those noisy game consoles. Anyway, I have noticed that young customers when they are ordering a drink, say - “Can I get a pint of lager” where did the ‘get’ come from? - probably the same place as the barman who likes to ask - “How are you today?” - I always answer - “Do you mean - as opposed to yesterday, or in general?”
Although I have never actually watched a single moment of Love Island on the television - I understand that someone counted the word ‘like’ in conversation held between two of the lusty participants in a short 3 minute conversation. They gave up, when it reached 100! I understand that the wilful overuse of the word ‘like’ in this context, is understood to be no more, or no less - than a type of verbal punctuation. Of course it is - silly me! Mind you dear reader, you only have to be in the vicinity of a group of ‘oldies’ for a little while before the competition for the most debilitating illness gets underway. Moreover, why is everyone always “rushed” to hospital and their condition on arrival was deemed to be “touch and go”? On a somewhat touchier subject, have you noticed that nowadays nobody ever “dies” anymore? Yes, people “pass” or “pass away” they might be “taken from us” - it’s understandable I guess, but our forbears were altogether more pragmatic about the only cast-iron certainty in a persons life.
I am also fascinated by the language people use when they have to report upon another persons abilities - and or shortcomings in the workplace or educational establishment. At one time, before employment tribunals were common place, if you are crap at your job, it would spelled out to you in black and white on your annual work-place appraisal.
Naturally enough, employers have grown cautious about this, as a lot of grief can follow a rather too frank reflection of an employees efforts. However, as language is all-important, I am told that there is a sort of ‘shorthand’ that HR Departments now adhere to - and if you are coming up for your own appraisal, beware of words such as - popular, improving, thoughtful and witty. These descriptions really mean - easily led - hopeless - slow and thinks he’s funny! You have been warned.
I know I shouldn’t mock footballers, but it’s really hard not to - as they are such an easy target aren’t they? However, you might want to look out for some of the following verbal gems that often occur during post-match interviews. “A top-top player - No disrespect - He’s not that sort of player - A proper football man (what did you expect - a netball man?) - and my all time fave - We gave 110% out there.” Mind you, compared to your average politician, footballers are the very epitome of clear-eyed frankness. Let me rehearse a couple of old favourite cliches for you.
As in - “Let me be quite open and honest with you - Our message is clear and simple - This dire situation we inherited from the previous administration.” Next week, you’ll be happy to know that I will be investigating ‘Memes’ and their place in modern life, along with a description of the hundred or so gender designations you might want to sample when there’s nothing on the telly. As for me? Well, I’m off to watch EastEnders and shout every time Grant (Is he still in it?) mangles the English language in an annoying fashion.
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