English As She Is Spoke – Grammar Nazis, Pedants and Slang-slingers

There’s a wonderful Winston Churchill quote that goes like this: “This is the type of errant pedantry up with which I will not put.”

Some brave fool had just told him that one does not end sentences with Prepositions in English.
The point of Winston’s reply, of course, is that at some stage you are going to have to break every rule that exists in English.

Lofty intellectuals like to pretend that English is like maths: that there is pure, unshakeable harmony and magic to it and that its tenants can never be broken.

Well, that’s not true.

Take ‘American English.’ Oh, the purists love to snort and snigger at this. However, Google’s project to digitise every book ever printed reveals quite clearly that whatever we now consider being American English started life in Britain. The Americans merely preserved it while the language continued to evolve in Britain.

Yes, continued to evolve. Because English is a hybrid… German, French, Latin, Nordic all boiled together for centuries to produce an eclectic, eccentric, unpredictable brew of a language…

All over English are clusters of letters we no longer pronounce… like tough, enough, taught and bought. The timing of the invention of the printing press forever preserved the old sounds of English before the vowel sounds shifted and consonants softened. When the evidence shows that English has always changed and is still changing, why insist that there is some perfect version?

The language hasn’t stopped. This time the technology affecting it is the internet in all its forms: SMS speak, smileys, Google translate.

It’s amazing though, isn’t it? No matter how much you mangle English, people can still understand you. Is that maybe because it is imperfect, impure, incomplete?

Much of what is considered good, standard English is no more than that: standard. There are always exceptions and exceptions upon exceptions. THIS is what makes it a complicated language to master. Its grammar is fairly simple, it has a standard sentence structure, its tenses stay in that standard word order.

What is complex is that there are exceptions to many situations and events. This is why learning English from a book an app or a website will always only take you some of the way down the road. To master English, you need to speak it… a lot and with native speakers who will (without knowing it) demonstrate many of the weird exceptions that exist.

English is as she is spoke, not as she is written in the rule book!

written by David Chislett, senior trainer businss English