Poison and venom – the diff’rence between them Is pedantry. Biologists may take exception, But only they should. Most of the rest of us navigate life Quite pleasantly With a definition that’s still close-enough To be good.
There are five times as many Yankees Speaking English as the English, So who’s English do you think will win ? Whatever the linguistic tankies wish, We’re just a little fish – Perhaps it’s time to take it on the chin ? Or, to be overt (and probably incite your wrath) – You do the math !
Ow !, that hurt. So stark and ess-less on the page, Just stoking up my British rage – Yet kids today are fine to say it – They don’t care, it’s just a thing you say, Like missing out the pointless yoos And adding honest zees That they know we’ll criticize – They choose to do it anyway, These wize-guys.
So what’s my beef ? Am I so shaky in my self-belief I have to wave my flag At quickening American ? Does my inner Anglo-Saxon gag And want to ban their New-World-ness ? Well, yes…I guess. But it’s all just arbitrary guff, And how long can I really bluff Until I must admit, their way makes sense ? Time to quit – don’t be a bore, For in this theater of war, My double els are no defense.
I know I have no chance tonite To tell the kids what they can say – Just as my teachers had no right To scold me for ‘okay’. But oh !, it hurts to hear my cherished forms Be cast away. Yet if the kids choose that instead of this, Well, who the hell am I then To dismiss them for their choice ?, As if I have a voice they’d listen to. So on they plow their furrow By their dollar, yard, and boro – For kids will always marvel at what’s noo.
I can assure you that it isn’t only Americans who can make wrath and math rhyme. There are so many other voices than RP, despite the OED’s attempts to pretend otherwise. By the way, I can’t help thinking the last line looks less New York and more Scottish ! I suppose I could say ‘nu’ instead, but I think that will lokk even stranger.
Whence ‘from whence’ ? It makes no sense, It just means ‘from from where’. But then again, It sounds so vain And old-world debonair. It looks contrived That we’ve revived Such quaint and frilly bull. We just don’t need The added speed To drop a syllable – So don’t correct Our speech unchecked, Don’t leap to its defence – It’s overstayed, So let it fade, And cease all use, from hence.
So what if it’s redundant To repeat the words we say In a PDF format Or an LCD display ? That’s just what you get When you over-shorten-down So your acronym comprises of Both adjective and noun.
So what if they’re redundant In their final acronemes ? We’ll always have PIN numbers For our ATM machines. Cos that’s just human nature, So triumphant to a T – But if you wish to argue it, Then please RSVP.
RAS Syndrome stands for ‘Redundant Acroneme Syndrome Syndrome’. An acroneme is a single letter within an acronym. I just made the latter up, and I’m really pleased with it. According to Wiktionary it also means “the slender section of a flagellum”, but it doesn’t give any citation, so I win – QED demonstated !
“Van Go”, he said, thus mangling it Quite in the American style – Yet in the accent of a Brit, From maybe Preston or Carlisle. So natur’ly I had to cough And stem this slovenly display – “I think you’ll find it’s said ‘Van Goff’, Misspoken in the English way.”
Ev’ry, dammit, ev’ry time My ev’ry sports a ’postrophe, You howl and howl my spelling crime As def’nit’ly catostrophe. But still they pop extr’ordin’ry, Dishon’rab’ly, inord’nat’ly, By lis’ning out for how it’s said When diff’rently from how it’s read. So speech shall speak, and I’ll lit’rature obey – Just deal with it, you soph’mores – cos the commas stay !
I love the way you speak, I’d never seek to mock its cocky tone. Your fully-glottled cant Ain’t mine to grant, it’s yours and all your own. Ignore the RP snob Who wants to rob your patois of its melody, And claim it’s just the vogue, Your burnished brogue, and not your self-identity. So know that I in no-way disrespect Your tongue as somehow incorrect When I request that you select Your speech with special care. It’s not your vowels, for they’re your glory, Nor your consonants abhor me – Yet the needs of oratory Cause us to beware. There is, I say, a world apart Between the rhythms we employ In casual chat and speaking smart, And knowing when the wrong will cloy. And when it comes to rhetoric, There comes a need for clarity – Don’t change you accent, let it stick, Just punch-in those plosives, and ring-out that final G.
Year after year, our language is changing
And drifting yet further from Shakespeare’s day,
Making it harder to known of his meaning,
Making obscure as we’re slipping away.
Writings updated retain all their meaning,
But lose all their diction and word-play and flow –
So when only scholars can read still this poem,
Then do not translate it, but just let me go.
First I took the high road, then I took the low road,
(But I found the middle of the road ain’t worth a mention.)
I hit and hogged and kicked-the-can upon the long and winding road
That’s sometimes paved with yellow bricks, and sometimes good-intentions.
Yet how many must a man walk down before they make him ?
This hard road to Damascus is a lonely trial of tears.
Please don’t lead to Rome again, but to the road not taken,
For the golden road to Samarkand begins at Wigan Pier.
Ah idioms, where would language be without jargon ? This poem is so early, I was still allowing myself to slip in post-rhyme esses (tearS and pier), which I’m much stricter about these days, although they do still crop up where to avoid them would make the syntax tortured (though usually in the also-rhyme position [lines 1 and 3], with a cleaner pairing on the prime-rhymes).
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.