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 constructed....in 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...