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27-4-2016 11:37:01  #31


Re: On the fecundity of English

i wrote a whole reply last night and then deleted it for some reason... I have three kids in their 20s and am pleased to report that they all spell out their texts grammatically and correctly punctuated etc. They all used to read a lot as kids. And they all stopped in their midteens, coincidentally at the very point when the UK education system turns into a sausage factory geared towards one thing and one thing only - exam results. The  system gives lip service to one thing but it is designed to facilitate another. It's Gradgrind only, now, you're not supposed to enjoy or or think for thinking's sake - just do what you're told as you're told it, to get good results so your school can look good. And you can get a job. Education is not about knowledge any more, just as TV is no longer about documentaries and drama. Even Gradgrind is a literary reference that my kids wouldn't get because I'm not sure they ever got closer to Dickens than watching Oliver! as kids and then doing A Christmas Carol.Two of mine dropped out of school under the pressure, but that's another story, and we're not supposed to talk about politics here.

One of those two did go on to get his degree, so that's okay, and he is now a web developer. Beak you're spot on about the technology. They do know different stuff from us. Tbh my kids, and their friends, ARE bright, intelligent and impressive - even if they haven't read enough books! (But they do read, some of them - one of my daughter's friends was just working her way through the tetralogy of novels by Elena Ferrante... serious stuff and 400pp a volume.) Their world really IS going to be different.

And in the little world I inhabit there is a rather glittering new generation of UK poets under about 30. Well, most of them are hitting 30 now but that's still quite young, some of them hit the scene when they were fresh from school - or even still in it. As you  might adduce from this conversation, they're writing a different kind of poetry from the last 20 years or so over here. They are simply open to different influences. Some of them are achingly, vacuously 'postmodern', and some others are a real breath of fresh air. 

So there you go. 

 

27-4-2016 18:37:58  #32


Re: On the fecundity of English

I respectfully don't agree with the thesis that things are actually getting worse faster. The possibility is acknowledged that every generation feels that way, then rejected - people really are getting less literate this time. But I don't think so. All evidence presented here is anecdotal evidence, but to really have a chance to decide this you would need some objective metric and some study. So I'm OK, you're OK, and what I think is that the fraction of the population included in the implicit sample is getting larger, hence sampling parts of the bell curve farther to the dim left. In the rose colored past the sample probably included educated people one has known while in the present semi-educated people one has sort of known.

I started rereading some Henry James today - God knows why - and his sentence structure still floors me. The pleasure in reading him is partially that you can possibly hold an entire one of his sentences in your mind and parse it. Though the beginning of the ambassadors at least seems like a wonderfully observed love story, so the mega-sentences were in the service of art. And I think I found a few that simply don't parse - we will presume because of bad editing, not James - and that is a maddening thing when reading on the subway because it's bad enough reading the hyper-complicated ones which work without reading one which just does not seem to work no matter how you group the words! Gives one a headache. A love story in hyper-sentences though - quite a concept.

I went to a 'murcan college most have probably heard of but I'm not a poet and I know it. But the damn elite truth is not everybody can be elite. Another Addler, please, and damn the statistics. It is the classic 'murcan form of affectation to affect that one is unaffected. It's the frontier character.


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
     Thread Starter
 

28-4-2016 04:54:05  #33


Re: On the fecundity of English

Have a listen to the news this evening.  My guess is that the presenter will make many grammatical errors, use buzz words and cheap media phrases to stand in for plain speaking, and will use many imported gibberish words.  This is more than merely anecdotal.


Sincerely,
beak.
 
 

28-4-2016 10:01:20  #34


Re: On the fecundity of English

Not only that, but the thing I really can't stand (while we're on it) is how announcers apparently routinely, now, stress the wrong word in the sentence? I feel it has to be because of autocue, or in voiceovers because they're reading a script - without really reading it. Drives me nuts. (It's like the whole-sentence version of contribute, distribute, etc.)

Good point about the bell curve, Repartee. Having said which, I seem to recall a study that concluded that functional illiteracy was higher in 2012 than in 1912. It's just a headline but the fact is that there wasa  whole widespread culture of education back then, in the working class too - that's what the early Everyman books and Penguins were about when they came along. It was an amazing thing when, after centuries of exclusion, finally working class people could afford to read great works, and even contemporary ones. Book clubs were also about this. Self-improvement. We really just don't have this culture now. 

Human nature doesn't change, but I think somehow we have allowed ourselves to get a bit complacent in only two or three generations. It's a sickness. (INNER VOICE: No politics on Type Talk!) People are still great, and clever and inventive, but the Enlightenment actually IS dead now, and we need to safeguard the freedom of knowledge. 

Love that Henry James. And if the sentences are bad, it's him, not the editors. It's the editor's job to make the sentence right if it's ungrammatical, not the other way round - and his later ones he used to dictate to an amanuensis - a typist! - so it will have been easier for him to get tangled up in his leash... 
 

 

28-4-2016 10:16:16  #35


Re: On the fecundity of English

Well - I say the Enlightenment is dead... maybe that's a slight exaggeration...

 

28-4-2016 19:19:44  #36


Re: On the fecundity of English

beak wrote:

Have a listen to the news this evening.  My guess is that the presenter will make many grammatical errors, use buzz words and cheap media phrases to stand in for plain speaking, and will use many imported gibberish words.  This is more than merely anecdotal.

)))) <good natured laughing>

But sir! That is the essence of anecdotal - assuming the newscaster, as we call them here, went on to realize in unalterable fact what you speculate in foreknowledge. To move beyond anecdotal we would have to quantify objective measures (buzz words or imported gibberish?), and demonstrate through analysis of a selection of video recordings that the frequency really is getting greater over the years - and then try to account for all the confounding variables: for example that the BBC was the only game in town earlier and that the presenters were all plug-ugly, suggesting that they got their jobs by other means than looking good in suits and laughing, whereas now the sample included many regional stations...

The whole thing is so complicated I quell before it. I have not been able to stand to watch the news for decades - literally - so I cannot comment on any recent trends. Though otherwise your picture sounds like people I work with and have worked with in the past. Less intelligent people live in horror of being found out so cloth their speech with buzz words and all that other gobbledygook, maybe in the process fooling others like themselves who must evaluate by secondary traits which they imagine correlated with that ability to think which they emulate. But of course they are instantly found out by people who think because nothing but understanding can successfully emulate understanding to the understanding. Oh, how they love buzz words du jour which they adopt at first hearing, so the next day they are all knowingly saying them to each other with the air that of course everybody knows what that means and only a simpleton would ask. And how angry they get when you ask!  First they try the "everybody knows that" tack, then the "do you think I'm stupid, of course I know that". 

But I think the best thing the slightly more comprehending can do to stop this is to stop making a cult of intelligence. For from time to time (but not anytime recently, I admit), I am reminded that those of lesser neuronal depth can live with and be worthy of respect. The key is humility, knowing what you know and what you don't know, and being true within your own compass and not ashamed because your compass is not larger. Humility earns the simple respect and rightly. I am reminded that when I am reminded of this it tends to be outside the big cities, where affectation and insecurity is as sure as the soot settling out of the air.

Thank you for tuning in to this rant. I do hope that I have fixed the margin on my IBM B, so it is ready to record addled rants in durable format.


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
     Thread Starter
 

29-4-2016 05:00:10  #37


Re: On the fecundity of English

Repartee wrote:

beak wrote:

Have a listen to the news this evening.  My guess is that the presenter will make many grammatical errors, use buzz words and cheap media phrases to stand in for plain speaking, and will use many imported gibberish words.  This is more than merely anecdotal.

)))) <good natured laughing>

But sir! That is the essence of anecdotal ................

Not so, IMO, because that source (the media) is now the driving force of language teaching, when once it was education.  Heaven help us, but the speed of ignorance-spread is so very rapid simply because of the media.  Language change is not tested by real people using it over time, and thereby evaluating it, but is vomited around the globe faster than light, and lapped up by children abandoned by their irresolute teachers to the mercies of TV.

IME,oak leaves are normally green in summer, but I can't quote you any studies or evidence to prove it.


Sincerely,
beak.
 
 

29-4-2016 08:29:04  #38


Re: On the fecundity of English

beak wrote:

Not so, IMO, because that source (the media) is now the driving force of language teaching, when once it was education. 

I still maintain that what's heard when watching mainstream news media is a product of degenerating communication skills, and not the source of it. I think you would be hard pressed to find many kids who actually watch anything mainstream, never mind the news. Kids aren't developing bad habits from watching the news because they simply aren't watching the news. The same can be said for newspapers. When I was a young apprentice we all picked up the paper on the way in to work and sat around reading it before our shift started. Today's kids have their noses pressed into their smartphones, and not to read the digital version of the news, but to peruse the latest narcissistic photos and ramblings of their virtual friends.
 


Stay Safe! 
 

29-4-2016 18:23:02  #39


Re: On the fecundity of English

And it's not just the kids!

BUT, remember this, that they are reading stuff on the internet on their phones. It may be VICE and Buzzfeed but they are engaged with what's going on. At least as much so as their forebears who read the New York Post or the Daily Mail...

I'm very aware that I use Facebook as a sort of news filter. But then I have a lot of journalist friends and so on, so they post up news. But even so... I can see from what other people post up that the kids are reading news too, just not in the same places. 

Online of course. The newspapers are going. That's a disaster, but it's a different disaster. WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE. =O

 

29-4-2016 18:49:31  #40


Re: On the fecundity of English

Well, we all view different aspects of this, but the public's constant bombardment, by the media, with banal, lazy language remains the biggest factor that I can detect in the current inability of both teenagers and many adults to communicate with any accuracy or intricacy.

Both the Australian and British media seem besotted with American patterns of speech - to the major detriment of both British and Australian forms of English.  What Australian ever said 'two times' when they meant 'twice', or 'proven' when they meant 'proved', before their TVs showed virtually nothing but American cop shows?  Australians who grew up with Aeroplane jelly and crisps now teach their own children to say 'airplane' and 'chips', and wonder why their nation has a problem with its identity.

The charter of the BBC ( and I guess the Australian ABC) used to be; 'To inform, educate and entertain.', but I never see much of the first two going on here.


Sincerely,
beak.
 
 

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