I like a dry spell

16-Oct-09
Times live we in turbulent. Uncertain standards are, compasses are spinning moral, and even trusted can’t be sentences properly to be structured. Situation the political in country this testament unfortunate bears to, as noticed I am sure of you have many.
Whenever the whirlwinds of economic hardship blow across the electoral seas, the ship of state veers dangerously to the right and metaphors are blown about like chocolate wrappers whipped out of the hands of careless pleasure cruisers. The past few years have certainly proven no exception to that rule. To usurp the televangelists’ privilege of combining arrogance with a disregard for scripture, these have been years that the low-classed hath eaten.
The British National Party has seen a significant and alarming rise in its membership in recent years, with counts estimating their total number of voters to be over 900,000. To put this in its proper perspective, all men and women of voting age who believe the BNP to be a reasonable alternative to the bipartisan nightmare could be comfortably housed and bedded in Norfolk and quietly cast adrift in the North Sea. Until the good folk of Norfolk agree to open their gates to such an influx of potentially violent and uneducated immigrants, however, the country at large will have to reconcile itself to hearing the same tiresome intolerant and intolerable remarks.
Fortunately the British Naturalist Party seems keen enough to provide employment for an entire generation of foreigners, with their policies and actions providing enough material for countless naturalised citizens to embark on profitable careers in stand-up comedy. On a smaller and more intimate scale, though, the Banque Nationale de Paris succeeds in getting poor bastards such as myself into the most awkward social situations.
Bellowing out things you don’t believe while performing demented hand gestures and undergoing peculiar facial contractions is not something any sane person would do on a regular basis. It might, for one thing, get them mistaken for a politician. But when the above contortions are done for comic effect, the average man on the street may be permitted a temporary spell of lunacy if he refers to it as sarcasm. Those of us with loftier aspirations are permitted even greater sins by virtue of vague references to irony.
Or at least, so I believed. And that was the reason I permitted myself, on a number of occasions throughout the past year, to loudly proclaim: ‘Lousy immigrants – coming over here and taking our jobs!’ within earshot of passers-by. The truly ironic (ha ha) aspect of the whole situation (tee hee) is that (oh, let me wipe my eyes) I myself (please stop, let me catch my breath) am foreign.
The trouble is, of course, that there is no convenient way to identify non-citizenship of a given country. There is no un-ID card or anti-passport distributed to the billions of us who would find it convenient to prove our lack of British affiliation. The difficulty is compounded by the unusual and irritating English accent I seem to have picked up from God-knows-where, and the pronounced pallor of my skin. In fact, if the latest in a series of reports by Dr. Bernard Lamb is to be trusted, the only reliable distinguishing mark would be the quality of my English. According to Dr. Lamb, a former reader in Genetics at Imperial College, those of you whose feet in ancient times walked upon England’s mountains green make on average five times as many errors in written English as the rest of us. In other words, it takes the combined effort of five foreigners to write as badly as any one Englishman. You should be proud. Or could that be prowed?
The lack of respect the English have for their own language is something of a mystery. It could be the result of a blithe, devil-may-care insouciance or their keenly developed sense of irony. Whatever the reasons, the deteriorating level of written English among students is cause for concern. You may see this as flying close to the hot, gaseous winds of pedantry, but I beg to differ. There is nothing wrong with labor, neighbors, or, indeed, with critcizing medieval theater programs. It is as ludicrous to judge someone on their colour as it is on the basis of their spelling of color, and the growing prejudice against American spelling is indicative of the worst kind of narrow-minded parochialism. Language evolves, and that is good. But laziness and ignorance, though inevitable, are bad. To paraphrase Dr. Lamb, emaciated seamen are not the same as emasculated seamen, and semen is a different kettle of fish altogether. Or a different kettle of fish, all together.
Standards and values are paternalistic and disgusting words to use, but standerds and valews are even worse. If the English want their language to be taken seriously as a candidate for a nova lingua franca, they have to make an effort to write it correctly themselves. Any linguistic change is always retrospectively a positive result – but such changes should be made for reasons of convenience and practicality, rather than apathy and sloth.
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