Saturday, 12 September 2009

The slow death of my language

A little while ago I started noticing the slow erosion of good English in written and spoken formats. The most startling example of recent is the apparent laziness or “dumbing down” of the BBC. I noticed it the other day when watching BBC News 24 I heard the broadcaster say “Police have named a man killed in London.” I am sure that it is more likely his parents named him some years before. What she probably meant was “Police have released the name of a man killed in London.” A moot point you may think but it is just one in a series of instances of which I have taken note.

Why is it that people are “named and shamed” and not simply exposed or revealed? Why is it that every report is “damning” and that a government “U-turn” is embarrassing? Surely the ability to review your progress and correct a process gone awry is a good thing, not an embarrassing admission of inadequacy. I have been told of a “very unique” technique for something-or-other and I wonder how anything can be “very” unique. Surely something is either unique or not. No one is perfect. I am not a linguistic god and often use inappropriate words and phrases in conversation and writing. I make up words for effect in certain pieces and I split infinitives mercilessly. I do, however, know that I am doing this. I am simply aghast that a bastion of correctness and impartiality such as the BBC is falling into lazy habits. If you are at all interested in the preservation of our subtle, bold, complex and beautiful language then I urge you to read a wonderful book by one of the BBC’s finest broadcasters. The book is Lost For Words by John Humphrys.


  1. wanna read a blog full of some murdering the english language and grammar, look no further, for examples, just come visit

  2. could it be that languages are changing slowly throughout history always? although i do cringe every time i hear (especially teens) "like" in front of every sentence and several times during the sentence! :)

  3. When it comes to the media, or at least journalism, you'd at least hope that they'd have a grasp on proper English. I mean, after all, it is a writing-based career. But then again, everyone makes mistakes. It's just annoying to hear those mistakes being said out loud, and they don't realize it half of the time...

  4. I agree with the sentiments expressed in this post. In fact, the BBC website nowadays is full of misused words and shoddy grammar.

    I posted a while back a similar diatribe to yours:

    And I'm about to post (some time this week) a piece about the modern misuse of relative clauses, which I find baffling every time I come across an instance.

  5. A reporter for CNN (which, I hear, provides Americans with the most objective worldwide news) mistakenly referred to President Bush instead of Obama. Oops. This isn't exactly the erosion of English that you're talking about, but it is so very wrong on so many levels. People in those positions should not display such blatant stupidity. The rest of us get some liberty for stupidity, but we should also be able to distinguish Bush from Obama. Otherwise, our language becomes like totally blasphemous.

    Thanks, TGG.

  6. Interesting post. Inspired me a bit: