Language Always Changing
One thing that can be said of the English Language, especially the spoken word is that it is both fluid and constantly evolving. And the older I get the more I notice the changes. For example: I have just written a sentence beginning with ‘And…’ a taboo long held amongst the technically correct amongst us.
I remember somewhat sketchily an article on a Seventies TV magazine programme. The focus was on ‘speaking properly’ or something like that. The memory that stood out was some posh, indignant, upper class lady railing against the young and their propensity to split the infinitive. Something that happens all the time; especially since Star Trek came into being “To BOLDLY go” being the example that springs to mind.
Yet our language is in a constant state of flux. Who would have thought forty years ago that the word ‘wannabe’ would be admitted to the hallowed pages of the OED! Yet it has.
This is not new. Far from it. I had the pleasure of playing Sir Toby Belch from Twelfth Night and in it he utters the word ‘Hobnob’, a made up word by Shakespeare or shall we say a nonsense word that eventually became assimilated into our language.
Take the word ‘gay’ for it has had three meanings in my short existence. Fred Astaire played ‘The Gay Divorcee’ and gay meant happy or colourful. Those of a same sex persuasion adopted the word as an acronym that represented their gender-type. GAY standing for Good as You. Then, in my teaching career I encountered the third incarnation of ‘gay’. For the teenagers I taught, it meant crap or rubbish.
When the Polish community came to my school I used to joke that we would teach them Standard English as a third language. Polish being first, the modern slang and way of speaking amongst the young of the local youth and finally, Standard English.
Finally, a warning to all. Stick with the language style you are familiar with and avoid the trap of trying to ‘fit in’ with unfamiliar styles and conversation types. I was caught out recently when I referred to a young teenager’s grandmother as being ‘mint’. I meant that she was a really nice, caring person and of sound character. I had in fact said to the young person that she was… how do I put it? Fit, sexy, highly desirable sexually. The shock on the student’s face was a picture to see and I realised instantly I had erred in a most dramatic fashion.