To take the example of gotten,
Grammaticists so much malign
This useful past participle
Whose use was once most rife and fine.
Crossing oceans, forth it went,
Yet back at home its usage fell
A shorter version came in vogue
That was but little used till now.
And yet these language experts
Who tell us how to speak forthhence
Forget this evolution,
Forget that English is not French.
They try to stop the creeping changes,
Battle hard against the rot.
“If we don’t keep our English pure,
Well, what then have we got ?”
Language has long fascinated me, and here’s an early attempt of spinning some obscure lingual trivia into half a page, a useful fallback still when Mr Block comes to call. The bit about English not being French is a reference to l’Académie Française, (that’s right, Immortals, I capitalised the adjective – deal with it !) I heartily hope that the average Francophone ignores them with rigour. I’m sure an English equivalent would simply hate ‘forthhence’, though maybe with good reason on this occasion.
3 thoughts on “Propersome Grammar”
Like you, I take a descriptivist approach to English (rather than l’Academie’s prescriptivist attitude to French).
For me, it’s important to acknowledge that English is a global language, spoken in a variety of settings and cultures. The spread of the English language is one of the legacies of British colonialism, and I think trying to regulate or gatekeep global English today would be morally wrong. Why should Caribbean English for example be considered inferior to “the Queen’s English”?
Lovely poem on a topic I find fascinating.
English has always been a free-for-all, and most of its supposed ‘rules’ (never ending with a preposition, using ‘fewer’ instead of ‘less’) originate in the 1700s or later by self-appointed busybodies. And it continues to this day as Stephen Fry smugly chastises us for talking about the North American buffalo.