I’m getting back on my hobby horse: the demise of the English language as we know it. I bring you the sad news that the Queen's English Society has announced that it is to close, dealing a blow to those of us who fight against the deterioration of the English language.
The society, which for 40 years has championed good English, has conceded defeat in the face of falling standards in the era of txt spk and Twitter. Chairman Rhea Williams told members of the decision after an annual meeting, attended by just 22 people, was unable to find volunteers to fill a number of key roles.
Since 1973, the QES has railed against the slovenly use of English and the deterioration of standards in schools, media and government publications. Two years ago the society spoke out to condemn British undergraduates whose poor grasp of English is, it maintained, often worse than that of foreign students who speak English as a second language.
The good news is that The Plain English Campaign is still going strong. If you’re stuck for that pertinent phrase in your latest opus, it has launched a “gobbledygook generator” on its website. Click a box and you too can be inspired by such phrases as:
“We need a more blue-sky approach to 21st Century reciprocal consulting.”
“I can make a window to discuss your total reciprocal mobility.”
“At base level, this just comes down to remote third-generation consulting.”
The bad news is that all these have, at one time, been used in a published document.
Meanwhile in France, that guardian of the French language, the Académie Francaise continues its fight against the adoption of Engish words where French should do. Sadly, though, in my favourite section of its website entitled “Dire, ne pas dire” [say, don’t say], it seems not to have found any errant Anglicisms since it called for a ban on the use of “best-of” (complete with hyphen) and “impacter” many months ago. Now here’s a bonus Monday Muse for you: produce a story that includes the word “impacter”.
However, in an article that appeared under the somewhat ironic heading of “Blog”, a member of the Académie conceded that sometimes only English words will fit the bill. They can, for example, be tolerated in women’s magazines where such phrases as “it shoes”, le “cross-dressing” or les filles “cute” apparently have no francophone equivalent. But there was a reprimand for SNCF, the French railways, which has printed on tickets the words “seat” and “coach”. For the poor Académian, this is the beginning of the end and he is now keeping a worried eye open for the appearance of such venues as the Station of the North in Paris.
Created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII,
The Académie has 40 members, who are known as “immortals” because they hold office for life. It is the chief authority on the French language and publishes an official dictionary.