David Mitchell | Save your venom for the self-appointed language police

Why snakes are more useful than language scolds, from The Observer:

… The Queen’s English Society (to which my knee-jerk response is: “No she isn’t. Doesn’t everyone say she’s mainly German?”) takes a different view. It’s decided that English needs an academy so that it can compete with less successful languages such as French and Italian. “We do desperately need some form of moderating body to set an accepted standard of good English,” it says, while the academy’s founder, Martin Estinel, a 71-year-old who claims still to use the word “gay” to mean “happy”, declares: “At the moment, anything goes… Let’s have a body to sit in judgment.”

Obviously this is absolute horseshit. By what authority would they sit in judgment? Where is their evidence that manacling our language to past usage is at all helpful or necessary? It would only stand in the way of the all-conquering self-diversification that has made English the global lingua franca, and allowed “lingua franca” to become an English phrase, while the French kick impotently against “le weekend”. Fortunately, people won’t take a blind bit of notice of this self-appointed academy and will continue, quite rightly, to use words exactly as they find convenient.

But what most annoys about the scheme is that it completely misses the point of linguistic pedantry. It’s no fun prissily adhering to grammatical rules if it’s mandatory. This academy wishes to turn something I have chosen to do – an attitude by which I define myself – into something I’m forced to do, along with everyone else. That’s like making everyone support Manchester United. It’s the blandly didactic product of priggish, literal, two-dimensional thinking. …

[more] via David Mitchell | Save your venom for the self-appointed language police | Comment is free | The Observer.

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