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Posted Wed Jun 17th, 2009 2:39pm Post subject: Language Podcast
In the absence (as far as I can see) of any email address on which to contact Stephen to give feedback, I shall post my thoughts on this here. Incidently, if anyone knows of the email address I would be very greatful, although I assume it isn't public to avoid him being inundated with emails...

I have listened to all the podcasts and found them all excellent, however this one topped them all. It is one of the most brilliant things I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. (N.B. the preposition!)

I am currently studying languages (French, German, Spanish) at Durham University and I am fascinated by their infinite complexity and wonderful nuance as well as many other parts of them. I am particularly interested by linguistics and the way language has evolved diachronically and the way it is fact I am interested in it in all its ways.

I was delighted to hear that Stephen thinks we should love language (although I already assumed he thought as such), but the fact that we should revel in its use and play with it to amuse ourselves is something I love to do. I love creating convoluted and complex sentences in writing and funny sounding sentences in speech. Alliteration, homonymy, metaphor, metonymy etc etc are all wonderful, especially when used in interesting ways.

I love people whose idiolect is unusual or different and I also love people with different accents. Living in Durham I am treated to the Geordie (if it is that) accent all the time and I myself have a strong Yorkshire accent, influenced by Lancashire as I live near the border. I find all of this utterly fascinating. I constantly mentally dissect people's writing and especially speech. I love it. I am proud to love language and love playing with language to create such and such an effect or to just amuse myself. (Split infinitive!)

Then come the comments on prescriptive grammarians and pedants etc. Interestingly the example used was of people who aspirate "aitch", one of the only linguistic "errors" that makes me wince. I remember a maths teacher at my secondary school who used to do this (using h as an algebraic term) and it infuriated me then and, sadly, still does now.

My mother was and still is one of these pedants. She shares my love of language, but not the depth of my learning of language and I have tried numerous times to explain that linguistic "errors" are the way langauge evolves and they are a fundamental part of linguistic change. Also, what does it matter if greengrocers are overly fond of the apostrophe or Durham council has a "Do things Different" day. These errors glare at me when written, because of my education, but I don't feel them to be a cardinal sin as some do.

Of course, I would prefer greengrocers to be a little more sparing with their apostrophes, but it isn't going to stop be buying fruit there, in the same way that I wouldn't spurn someone with a Birmingham accent, just because I happen not to like it very much.

One of the brilliant things about these podcasts is the wonderful articulacy with which Stephen can narrate them. Sadly due to my idiolect, if I attempt to use (and I do) phrases such as "vim and alacrity" I get stares of disbelief and confusion, both because many people don't understand the word "alacrity" and because they don't expect me to come out with such "posh" words, considering my last sentence was something like "am bahn tut'pub". I have attempted (very unsuccessfully) to imitate my accent in writing...but I'm sure you get the idea.

I am so, so pleased to have been able to listen to this podcast. It was truly fantastic. I very much hope that Stephen reads these forums, because I would love him to know how much I agree with his sentiments and how glad I am that perhaps my favourite and definitely my most respected celebrity/TV personality shares my views on this topic. My only regret is that he can put forward his views in a far more eloquent way than I. Although, my mother having listened to this podcast has been swayed more into line with my thinking, which is a wonderful outcome!

One last thing....a grammar point that does annoy me - people hypercorrecting with "I". Because it is now more common to say "You and me went for a walk" instead of "You and I....", it seems that pedants have picked up on this and lambasted people so much that they have developed a terrible fear of the word "me", thinking "I" to be more correct. I really, really hate to hear people say things like "He gave it to you and I". I see it as a mark of a semi-educated person feebly attempting to climb the socio-linguistic ladder to a higher register and it really pains me to hear it. I know it probably shouldn't, but it does.

Conversely, I am unsure as to whether my above sentence "...far more eloquent way than I." is actually correct usage. Although, I am aware that the bulk of this mini-essay is riddled with grammatical and probably orthograpical errors (a downfall of learning other languages....spelling in English becomes increasingly difficult as foreign synonyms are often spelt slightly differently). I can't think of any good examples, so non-linguists will have to trust me that I am not just an incompetant! Although, of course, I make no apologies for these errors (apart from where they hinder understanding) and I have edited my post to highlight a few obvious ones I saw on proof-reading!

I apologise for the length of this post...I had intended it to be a small post thanking Stephen for his great work and showing my appreciation and support, but once you pop you can't stop...



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Posted Wed Jul 15th, 2009 12:52pm Post subject: Language Podcast
As ever, this podgram was quite brilliant and hugely enjoyable! But it did occur to me that the immense and obvious pleasure that Stephen takes in ridiculing those poor unfortunates who seek to defend a 'proper and correct' use of the English language is matched only by the immense and obvious pleasure which we (as his adoring public) take in celebrating the glorious dexterity with which he (perhaps unwittingly, yet probably with tongue firmly in cheek) provides yet another master class in the 'proper and correct' use of the English language! I imagine this irony is not lost on Stephen. Indeed, it is the very stuff that his lovable comic mind thrives on.

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Posted Thu Jul 30th, 2009 1:57am Post subject: Language Podcast
Love the post, Tom - and I'm also (sadly monolinguistically) a lover of words, and all the wonderful things that can be done with them.



For all that I profess (and I *do*, quite vehemently), how much I love the fluidity and changeableness of language, and how I'm not a grammar or spelling, or indeed punctuation nazi (how can I be with sentences like this?) - well .. I have a bugbear too.

Perhaps I should of written a little more before diving in - I could of written more, indeed I would of. But there you have it. It makes me cringe. It drives me barmy. I know why it happens, and I've quite happy for it to happen in speech. But on the page? Could HAVE, should HAVE, and would HAVE.

Look - you can shorten it to "could've" if you like. It sounds the same.

There. Gripe done.

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Posted Sun Aug 30th, 2009 5:08pm Post subject: Language Podcast

That podgram, although old hat and several weeks ago a this stage, was wonderful.

I often found myself automatically correcting things my parents would say or even othrers, even though i'm not the most well read or even greatest speller. But i did it anyway.

I have a bland and featureless accent. I'm of slightly posh Irish extraction and thus can't practice the same lyrical majesty as my cousin's on this fare isle. I have no ability to roll Ar's, or replace t's with gutteral D's.

My Pro-nunce-iation is almost as exact as i would like to think i can make it, while also feeling it's almost stuck up in feeling that way. In truth i don't want to be like this when i talk. Increasingly i have a growing respect for the thought surrounding English that "if you can understand it, then it isn't wrong or worded "wrongly"."

However it is still difficult to get past this sometimes.

Especially with American accents or some poorly educated people or sociological groups that blatantly disregard and are unaware of some of the structures and word use's they should practice.

"Wrongly" being one of the big one's.

"I didn't do anything wrong." Although perfectly intelligble and understandable, a switch in my head automatically spurts "wrongly" if if i am indeed in the wrong.

And frankly i don't like it. If i can be understood, and if i have chosen certain words to be such words to convey my point, opinion and simple mundane utterance, then why can't we all leave it at that.

It's a form of DoubleThink as George Orwell would call it. Knowing that i can say some things and be understood, but feeling saying them another way with more words, added beginings and endings to each one can make it far more clear to the more literate or those of different dialects. Why do we have to? It's English, learn the words you don't know, and learn the context you are trying to correct.

As A Hiberno-English speaker with Upper Middle class twangs i also have the influence that this whole island has, the Irish Language. What sets us apart from the rest of the English language spectrum, is the need to specifically clarify what tense some of our actions are in. The best example being:

If you are asked what you're doing or have done, such as it being tea/diner time an Irish person will almost automatically say:

I'm/I am JUST after having my diner/tea etc.

JUST, as if having HAD was not enough. "Just after Having" Instead of I was eating my diner, i had my diner, i just had, no no no, it has to be "just after having" it has to be explicit that we share that it was an act in the past that has recently ended and was a moment we experienced up until being asked otherwise.

The complexity of living with a language on my door step that i can't even speak or know more than 100 words of, and yet it forms and frames how i create each sentence to leave my mind via my Vocal cords, lungs, lips and tongue or via my fingers.

Excuse me for the rant.

In short i am one of those Pedants sometimes, but i would LOVE to not be. I would love to accept each utterance and not feel an urge to correct it.

If i can't understand you then i would hope to be able to ask for you to repeat yourself, add emphasis or context, or inform me in my ignorance that not everything needs to be Grammatically conformed and structured.

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