Given their obsession with inventing compound words, the Americans have still not managed to reduce the number (and certainly not the size) of words they use to express themselves. In any televised newscast, tautology reigns supreme. The result of anything must be qualified as ‘end’ or ‘final.’ Outcomes are always eventual. Time must always be framed and weather conditioned. Nobody is angry or mentally deficient anymore, but suffers from issues thereof, except when the word is exchanged for ‘event’. I have even heard a heart attack described as ‘a heart event.’
Some words have disappeared almost completely from their vocabulary. ‘Big’ is now ‘of considerable size’ and ‘very’ has given way to ‘substantially,’ or any other word that mounts up the syllables. We no longer have ‘many’ or ‘a lot of’ anything these days: more than a few becomes ‘multiple’, and even a simple word like ‘often’ has been shelved in favour of ‘on multiple occasions.’ I believe it is time the Americans downsized their language as well as their cars and houses.
The propensity for using too many words or inventing new ones is not exclusively American, of course. The Spaniards do it as well, but in general are happy with the number of words in their language. The problem here is the influx of foreign words, ‘football’ being a prime example. It was in widespread use for the best part of a century before being finally accepted about two decades ago by the Royal Spanish Academy as an alternative to their own coinage, which was ‘balompié’, a direct translation from the English.
Nonsense like this brings into question the need for a regulator of language such as an official academy, but all things considered, I would prefer not to rely, as we in the English-speaking world do, on usage alone to determine correctness.
The Spanish Academy does not have to wrestle with pronunciation, the variation of which mainly exists as a result of regional accent rather than ignorance of accepted pronunciation, but an English Academy would have to work overtime in this respect. Use the word ‘forehead,’ in conversation with a young person without pronouncing it as ‘four-head’ and they will probably tell you they did-ent understand.
All this talk of correct speech would be somewhat pedantic were it not for the need to teach English as a foreign language. Now I find an English grammar telling students to ignore the subjunctive in English, one result being that my previous sentence would confuse them. And I read in the newspapers that there is a movement to eliminate the apostrophe in English, given the difficulty it presents to language students.
There was a brief movement some years ago, supported by no less than Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez, to suppress either the ‘b’ or ‘v’ in Spanish, both being pronounced the same. The Spanish Academy was more royally amused than horrified.
But academy or no academy, language marches to an unpredictable beat, and I wonder what the future of ours will be. If I was you, I wouldnt ask. Its anybodys guess.
Filed under: General by Vivion O'Kelly