Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Standardisation of English



I have been reading about life in Medieval England lately. In the course of so doing I understand much better the part the development of the printing press played in standardising the English language. How, for instance, “ye” became the the spelling for “the” and how the use of an abbreviation like “&” for “et” in the middle of a word was dropped.

Of course I went to school when rules on the use of the English language were tediously drummed into you and there was no scope for deviation. Any errors resulted in red lines in exercise books and the need to write out corrections ten times.

Recent generations of school pupils have been spared the pedantic insistence on subservience to the rules of spelling and grammar. However, in family proceedings the drafting of court documents, solicitors’ letters, laws and regulations all require the precise application of those rules. Occasionally, there can be a mismatch between what a lawyer thinks he has dictated and what he receives to check and sign.

In recent years, therefore, I have been treated to such gems as:
Baristas going into court (presumably to make coffee for the Judge);
Ships birthing (maybe that’s how baby boats are delivered);
Illicit information (when eliciting information was required);
Pecking knees (referring to a dog that sounded like a chicken with bandy legs perhaps).

My personal favourite of all time, however, was:
Higher perches (to finance the car not to provide a seat with a view for the budgerigar).


1 comment:

David said...

These made me laugh.
I also find the microsoft word spell checker hilarious at times, when it auto corrects what you are typing with some bizarre alternative.