Kids these days


Here’s a prediction from The Sun (via The Guardian):

The whole world could be speaking a single language called Techlish within 100 years. A blend of English and IT jargon is booming as hundreds of ancient dialects die out. (Quoted in The Guardian.)

It is, of course, absolutely wrong – people have been making the same predictions since time began. A good example was the Inkhorn Controversy in the sixteenth century, when English was borrowing words left, right and centre from Latin.

People hated the idea that English wasn’t good enough on its own. That erudite scholars had to taint it with foreign coinages. Critics called the new words inkhorn as a reference to the writing tool those scholars used. Illecebrous (attractive), exolete (obsolete) and fatigate (to fatigue) are a few of the words that didn’t survive for very long.

But the inkhorn terms that filled a gap in English lived on. Without that period of Latin influence, we wouldn’t have mundane, fertile, contemplate, confidence, frivolous and celebrate. And without this extra layer of vocabulary, we wouldn’t be able to express anywhere near as many different thoughts and feelings – and English wouldn’t be the wonderfully poetic and literary language it is today.

If a dialect dies out, it’s because nobody needs to speak it anymore. And if new words flood into English, it’s because there’s a genuine need.

People know that. It’s only the pedants who don’t.

*All the inkhorn words in this blog came from worldwidewords.org/articles/inkhorn.htm.

 


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on Jan 05, 2011

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