English as She is Spoke and Writ

The English language, both written and spoken, is governed by a complex set of rules but these are far from universal in their application. There are regional and national variations, historic influences such as local accents, and words that have been transliterated from indigenous languages.

The language continues to evolve and influences such as increased international travel, satellite television, the Internet, text messaging and email seem to be hastening its change.

There is a growing body of opinion that adherence to strict rules for pronunciation, spelling and punctuation is unnecessary provided that the end result is effective communication. This has a certain merit when a basic level of communication is achieved. However, by following established rules, communication can be enhanced with more information being transferred.

The language seems to be going through a bumpy period with annoying influences caused by a sudden change rippling through the language. These are usually caused by the increased use (or misuse) of an obscure word or the adoption of a foreign pronunciation of a common word.

Two grating examples spring to mind. Absolutely shot into common usage as an affectation to make the user sound more sophisticated a few years back. It is now so prevalent that its meaning of “completely, utterly, perfectly” has been prostituted as the word continues to be used as a mere filler, and a replacement for “yes.”

Sarah Moany is a recent immigrant to New Zealand from North America. Not so long ago, she was ceremony but lax standards at Television New Zealand and National Radio have allowed Sarah to feature prominently at the Maori Queen’s tangi, the King of Tonga’s funeral and, most gratingly, at the recent Armistice Day commemorations in London.

There are plenty of websites discussing poor standards in the English language, so this new category What Means This? on Wild Land will concentrate on examples where sloppy use of the language results in conveying the opposite of what was intended, or allows humorous interpretation. The occasional gripe might sneak in, but I think we’ll find plenty to chuckle over.

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