This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Believing in fairies: a rant.

This is from Harry Ritchie's piece in the Guardian of the 4th January 2014.

'Almost all judgments about someone's language - the laziness of a glottal stop, the slowness of rural speech, the supposed ugliness of a particular urban accent - have no linguistic justification and reflect only the prejudice of the judger.'

And then there's this:

'...dialects tend to be more sophisticated grammatically than standard [English] (as in the plural "youse" of many non-standard dialects where standard has just one confusing form).'

Leaving aside the idea that sophisticated and complex are the same thing, if you can manage to believe both those statements at once then you can believe anything.

I should imagine that Tinkerbelle is much relieved.

Word To Use Today: glottal. This is a useful word if you want to make a noise like wine being poured out of a bottle. It comes from the Greek glōttis, which means tongue.

Albert Einstein Tongue Image


  1. When teaching languages, I always find people people underestimate the power of context. In Spanish, for example, the formal first person and third person conjugations of a verb tend to be the same, and are usually spoken without a subject pronoun. Thus, the word "quiere" can man 'you want', 'he wants' or 'she wants'.

    English-speaking students always struggle to understand how this doesn't lead to constant misunderstandings, and are determined to ram a subject pronoun onto every verb, as 'El quiere', 'he wants', even though this can somewhat change the meaning in Spanish.

    Anyway, I'm rather waffling here, but the point is that context is very powerful, and as someone that speaks a variety of English that doesn't differentiate between "Do you want to come?" (just you) and "Do you want to come?" (both or all of you), I can't say that I've ever found it particularly troublesome to be understood.

    1. Me neither, Eddie. Especially as it's so easy to say, if necessary, 'do you both/all want to come?' to make it absolutely clear.
      By the way, youse has been used in Liverpool as both a singular and a plural, so the whole thing is nonsense anyway.