OK, I’ll admit it: English changes

historical-englishI’m very particular about the English language. I love the language, and I like to see it used properly. I notice even the tiniest of mistakes, and I think the descent into txt speak is abhorrent. Unsurprisingly, I often forget that English hasn’t always been what I consider to be correct, and even within my lifetime people have changed the way that they speak English properly.

I was reminded of this after reading Alison Flood’s recent article on The Guardian’s website. She also brought to my attention that dreaded unnecessary abbreviations were in existence 150 years ago, when people were still being encouraged not to drop their H’s.

Because it turns out, you see, that we Brits have been lamenting declining standards of English for centuries: all the way back in 1712 Swift wanted to “fix our Language for ever” to stop any more change. The British Library exhibition will also highlight a 19th-century pamphlet, which attempted to persuade the lower-middle classes to stop dropping their “h”s if they wanted to get ahead, and it makes the point that far from being a curse of today, text speak was actually prevalent around 150 years ago, as shown by its exhibit of Charles C Bombaugh’s poem Essay to Miss Catharine Jay. Just take a look: apparently the poem was much admired, but it looks like the sort of thing one of today’s teenagers could dash off in a minute: “an S A now I mean to write / To U, sweet KTJ”; “I 1 der if you got that 1 / I wrote 2 U B 4”, etc. (Although I’m quite impressed by the line “in X L N C U X L” … can anyone beat that?)

Meanwhile, I think I’ll still continue to be crochety about language, and eventually someone will start thinking that I am incorrect.