Sunday, June 17, 2007

Of English and Ngls.

I just read an interesting post on Sindhu's blog(which, by the way, is an example of thought-out writing, not an orgy of rants like this one... :D )on the the way English today is a mere shadow of its former glorious self.

I personally cannot claim to like SMS-lingo. I hate it, in fact. I like words to have both vowels and consonants, and adjectives to precede nouns, and sentences not to start with 'because' , because 'because' is a conjunction, because that was what I was taught was correct, and that is what I have come to appreciate as a mark of intelligence.

This does not take away from the fact, however, that if there is one thing that can be said about the evolution of the English language, it is that it has always been changing. At breakneck speed.
It began with being Celtic, and yet how many words in contemporary popular usage can be said to be of Celtic origin? Most of it is Greek, Latin, French or Hindustani(as Hindi, Persian and Urdu are clubbed). Some are Irish(seance) and some are German(doppelganger). Some are even Tamil. English is possibly the most bastardised language in the history of the world. It has no scruples about encroaching, head and shoulders, into any other language, and it is for this irreverence and flexibility that I love it.

Most of the rest of the words we know , are, of course, Shakespearean. That's right. That guy we all deify as the 'father of modern english drama'? Him of the complicated romances and long-drawn-out tragedies? Well he invented words left, right and centre, and any other time it pleased him to, if existing words were too colourless for him. And even otherwise.
He was famously an astute businessman too - far from the popular myth of struggling idealist artist in cold garrets, he was prosperous, canny and inanely productive. He was on the payroll of several local theatre companies, and created hundreds of drafts a year. Plays came not out of isolated creative bursts amidst intellectual dawdling, but as a steady - and overwhelming - stream, out of business interests. He was responsible for some of the most long-lasting innovations in practical theatre structure as well. He was innovator and a businessman - not an intellectual.
Far from being horrified at the 'degeneration' of the English language, he'd be delighted at the size of the new audiences he could reach, not least the market they represented.

We may all love the English language, and some of us may rue the demise of the time when capitals and periods were considered intrinsic to sentences. But love of the language should not blind us to its faults. Apostrophes, for one, are widely considered to be one of the most clumsy grammatical devices ever, apart from, in historical times being considered too colloquial and indicative of the lower social classes.

The upshot being - English is moving on. Shortening, twisting, scrambling, but moving on. As it always has. We may mind, but it doesn't. Never has. We can only try to influence the evolution, not control it. That would be sadly against the very spirit of English.

Oh and - I assure you that everything I have said here has been sourced from either a book or a newspaper article, and I will put up some references as soon as I can find them online. Excuse the lack of footnoting.

8 comments:

Blog-Chica! said...

hey!...nice writing...lotta substantial matter as i can see...

where i made my blog; well rite here in b'bay...sudden urge to blog!

and btw, kewl!...really nice to see one of the same clan...coz ive been surrounded by ppl who worked their guts out for stuff they disliked but still mugged...

It was really too much for me...esp math-phy...i cudnt' possibly hate nything as much as i hated those two menaces...!!

indiegurl said...

Hey, nice to see you here...


Oh I love math..its physics I hate! I also love biology, which is also the only he only reason I took this stream.

Anamika said...

n yea, the same law school as sindhu. gosh, small bloody world

revelsign said...

nice writing. and its good you're into footnoting. it'll come in handy at nlu =) see you around.

whats your favorite shakespearean play?

indiegurl said...

@revelsign: Of the limited Shakespeare I have read in the original, I like Julius Caesar the best. Next is Othello.

linda said...

very well written!!! applause

revelsign said...

hey i definitely have a thing for julius caesar too...and twelfth night. merchant of venice is pretty good too. generally i like some of his sonnets better though...

indiegurl said...

@linda: Thank you! :)
@revelsign: I haven't read Twelfth Night in the original, so I can't say...yeah, and I like his sonnets to the Dark Lady too. Especially sonnet 138.