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08-3-2016 16:26:38  #21

Re: On the fecundity of English

I have another counter to your argument that it's mainstream media that is destroying the literacy levels of today's youth: I don't know anything about the habits of kids in Australia, but in Canada there are very few who will have anything to do with mainstream media. They don't read newspapers, they don't watch the news, and books and magazines are foreign things to them. In other words, the influence of mainstream media on the young is rather limited given how little exposure these kids have to such sources. They are far more likely to watch YouTube videos and get their news from blogs, and even then, in painfully small doses as their attention span is so limited. Case in point, when I write an article for publication it's typically around 1,500-2,000 words in length. The same article when written specifically for website use rarely exceeds 700 words. Why? Because those who prefer to get their information from a computer or a tablet either lack patience, or aren't willing to invest the same amount of time in reading as their paper-preferring counterparts.

It sounds to me like what you're reading and watching, and the source of your complaints, might be the product of the first wave of youth who have been afflicted by the new communication standards. I recently dealt with a two young journalists (early 20s) and was appalled by their lack of professionalism or concern with their grammar in their written communications with me. I don't think the source of their apathy was a crumbling media standard, but the technology they grew up using, and it's that disregard for articulate and acceptable prose that is now beginning to permeate old-school media outlets.

11-3-2016 04:46:32  #22

Re: On the fecundity of English

Fair to say that I'm painting with a very broad brush, and I guess some are getting splashed with tar who don't deserve it.  I cannot, however, find any level of excuse or justification for the appalling tripe-language I seem to hear from every mass-media outlet. 
   As you probably appreciate from other posts, this is not some diatribe bemoaning that things are different today to the way they were when I was a lad, or any simplistic nostalgia, but a heart-felt abhorrence at the dumbing down of children (and adults) to a point where they don't have the energy to look for anything better or to rouse much interest in anything but the media itself (I wonder whose plan that fits in with so nicely), computer games, and the pathetic sham of 'celebrity' in all its forms.
  I think the aspect of all this that rankles most is the vast waste of human resources, time and energy on this rubbish, and compared to that, some generalization may be forgiven?


11-3-2016 14:04:37  #23

Re: On the fecundity of English

I fully agree, and share all of your concerns. It is rather shocking - and extremely disappointing - that the apparent vastness of the internet seems to be mostly filled with the flotsam of pop culture. And that the inherent textual limitations of social media tools are slowly creating a generation of functional illiterates. It crawls under my skin when I read the sum of their communicative efforts, and the impression such writing (if we can still call it that) creates that they are lazy and uncaring. im 2 bizzy n 2 kewl 4 rightin n stuff...

18-3-2016 17:21:02  #24

Re: On the fecundity of English

Then let's preserve, for the sake of our own sanity, if not to reteach the rest of humanity how to communicate, the proper ways we all know how to communicate by using what we know to be the proper way of using the English Language.  While the rest of society seems to be descending to the level of shrieks and spit bubbles, we can muster a force to bring back the art of effective communication, especially in our writing.  You see, we have the advantage in that we all have a definite appreciation with a device primarily used for communication.  And in the use of that device, we have honed our own abilities to command the English Language.  As well as having repaired typewriters, I have also done quite a bit of typing in the last 35 years.  I don't mean just testing out typewriters to see if they work.  I mean thousands of letters, a few research papers, essays, forms, resumes, et cetera (and other things).  With this, I feel like I could possibly teach English to others--at least a somewhat reasonable way of communicating it.  So, to those of you who are, or were, journalists, writers, and other forms of typists, ours is to preserve the English Language and reteach it to the masses.  ARE YOU WITH ME?!!!

Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness

26-4-2016 08:47:24  #25

Re: On the fecundity of English

Uwe wrote:

retro wrote:

You are not alone there so will somebody please tell me what a 'hipster' is. I did consult the bible of the English language, the Oxford Concise English Dictionary but apparently it is American English. 

"Hipsters" are not a North American phenomenon. KatLondon has shared her views of the hipster situation in England a few times in this forum, so I think it's less a matter of language than whether or not you have a finger on the pulse of current trends. 

retro wrote:

One person, an aunt, who was a great influence on me in my youth spoke and wrote perfect Queen's English and it was not her first language either as she lived in Canada. I am not very good at being politically correct but I believe the correct term is to say she was a native American. I expect I should not therefore say her country was Canada either and I trust that does not offend anybody. 

That was a little confusing because it implied that English isn't the first language of Canadians, which it is. So you're saying is that your aunt is a North American Indian? English may not be native Indians first language, but because of our education system most can speak English as well as any other Canadian, which incidentally is a variation that is much closer to the "Queen's" version than the truncated style used south of us. In short, I'm not surprised that she had a good command of the English language, or that it was a dialect more familiar to you.

Sorry about any confusion. I should have said she was actually a great aunt so must have been born around the same time as my grandparents in the 1890's and was a North American Indian. I had always imagined that she was well educated, certainly better than my state junior school and although she told me a lot about her early life on the reservation I cannot remember school ever being mentioned. She had often written to my father as well as his sister who bought me a typewriter when I was nine. My mother died when I was eight and my great aunt started to write to me and send me gifts from time to time and always on my birthday like a dream catcher and a star blanket which became my campfire blanket in the Boy Scouts. In the politically incorrect 1950's we used to play cowboys and Indians without fear of being gunned down by the police or run over by the traffic. Others may have had cowboy and Indian outfits but my Indian costume was the real thing sent to me by my great aunt who was a real red Indian and I had the photographs and letters to prove it.
The fact that her life in the early 1900's was nothing like depicted in western films was of little consequence to me at that age.  It used to take me at least a week to reply to her letters in the best handwriting I could manage and I had to plan each letter out carefully making sure I had replied to all her questions which proved to be good practice for writing school essays for a start.  I think I can hold her responsible for the short stories I wrote and what must be the worst book of poetry ever published, none of which, hopefully, have survived. She lived in Toronto and I met her family when they came to England in the late sixties, a few years after she had died. I am told that the politically correct term now for my great aunt should be first nation without any mention of the word America, not that many in England would say north America when referring to Canada.

I have been rather busy lately proof reading first one dissertation (thesis?) for my son and then ending up doing three other ones. I was appalled by the standard of English and wonder what ever happened to education in England. If they can get an A level in English then why can't they write it. I think it has left me partially brain dead, never again will I do another one. It just made me think of my great Aunt who had beautiful handwriting and impeccable English. If she could do it why can't my own children?



26-4-2016 09:20:57  #26

Re: On the fecundity of English

Because it requires an outrageous price to be paid; expending a little effort.  And not just by children, but by teachers too.  We stumble too upon a ridiculous educational policy demanding that here are no losers, and that any sort of judgement or value which marks one person's abilities as superior to another's is unacceptable.  Thus the king is dead - long live mediocrity! - the new king of education.  Makes me puke, frankly.

Last week at the lunch table, I asked everyone which Shakespeare play was their favourite - none of the twenty-odd people present had an opinion, had ever been to see a Shakespeare play, or could give me a single line from, or name any character in any of the ten plays I mentioned (I omitted Hamlet) - you would think someone could name a Character from King Lear!

OK, I went to school in England most of you would know by name, but even the state schools then were respectable, and got results, but things have changed so very much these forty years on, or more, that I am dumbfounded.

I ask myself (and ask you too) is it just a change in subject?  Do children know much more about something that I never even studied?  I've seen no evidence of that.  What have they been doing with their years at school?

This rather good bottle of Cabernet is making me more 'relaxed' (shall we say) than usual tonight; please forgive if I've rambled.


26-4-2016 10:23:30  #27

Re: On the fecundity of English

retro wrote:

Others may have had cowboy and Indian outfits but my Indian costume was the real thing sent to me by my great aunt who was a real red Indian and I had the photographs and letters to prove it.

I would love to see one of those photos!

beak wrote:

...Cabernet is making me more 'relaxed' (shall we say) than usual tonight; please forgive if I've rambled. 

No apology required! Ramble on, ramble on, your points are well taken and very valid, at least from my perspective of the status quo. When I think about our most recent generation of post-school 'adults' I'm forced to wonder how older folks viewed my generation when we were that age. Did they think us to be young and dumb too? Is this perception just a generational phenomenon?

Today's kids are unquestionably different in many ways. They are products of a more advanced generation of technology, which is what I firmly believe is the root of the problem. Our imaginative play was (outdoor) activities such as retro's cowboys and Indians, theirs was video games. Our entertainment included a lot of reading, something that today's kids seem to have an aversion too. (I find it shocking that I might live to see the death of print.) We used to research - thoroughly - the answers to the questions that we had. Now everything is left to a quick Google search, and a cursory reading of its result. And the source of the found information is never questioned; they are too willing to accept whatever is written in the first hundred words as a hard fact. No one appears to realize that the internet is as big a source of misinformation as it is of anything else. 

Of course I'm talking in generalities. Obviously there are bright, intelligent, and impressive kids out there, but it seems like the bar for the rest, the common denominator, has been lowered, a lot.

26-4-2016 20:39:03  #28

Re: On the fecundity of English

TypewriterKing wrote:

The heading reads, "On the Fecundity of English."  From the first thread, I take it to mean the fruitfulness and ongoing expansion of the English language and not the hardiness and the prolific nature of the English ...

Yes. If I had meant to remark on the English I would have written "On the Fecundity of the English", which sounds rather improper. And there has has been thread drift - every Net Poster's Apollonian right - into how the English language is being degraded by the semi-literate - whereas I had a purely positive message: my delight at the discovery of new apropos, pithy, pert and pugnacious phrases created by others - even unto two worders - which I had never seen before!

Just how many colocations are possible in English?

According to, as of January 1, 2014 there were 1,025,109.8 English words (don't you wonder about the four fifths word?). So roughly one trillion colocations, or two trillion if you count word order. Say only 5% of them were even slightly meaningful, that's around 100 billion potential English colocations. I guess I should not be surprised to find new ones.

But my point was that the professional writer seems to come upon happy ones much more often than chance would suggest. For example...

Repartee: "ingenious succotash"
KatLondon: "slapdash soplipcism"

Suffering succotash!

Let's try again:

meandering marble
tween proselyte
haberdashery polonaise
perennial fastener
coruscating clam 

...just can't pull it off. Sigh. But I don't think the concentration of language louts has really increased since 1850.  Quite the opposite. I think technology has just enabled them to make themselves annoying to the language elite much more readily, and also there is also the hidden assumption that every adult member of society should be capable of complex linguistic intercourse. That's what we get for promoting 100% adult literacy.

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

27-4-2016 06:45:23  #29

Re: On the fecundity of English

Uwe;  ............ Did they think us to be young and dumb too? Is this perception just a generational phenomenon?

I know full well that they did!  My father, for instance, thought that I sounded like an American because I used phrases such as '"I had a meeting today." - when, in his opinion, you could attend or cancel a meeting, but not have one.  Tempora mutantur, but the change is not the same now, as we have noted before. 


27-4-2016 06:47:19  #30

Re: On the fecundity of English

Tonight's bottle is another splendid Cabernet from the same source - I shall go 'off-line' immediately.

'Nighty night to all.


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