take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Linguistic observations 

Some people (including me) tend to say: "I haven't..." - e.g. "I haven't seen that film" while others say: "I've not..." - e.g. "I've not seen that film". Similarly, "He hasn't been round here" versus "He's not been round here". Same words, different method of abbreviation. Which one do you use, if any? What is it that makes some people use the former, whilst others use the latter?

I wondered whether it was a North/South (UK) dialect thing. A bit like the "I was sat..." vs "I was sitting..." debate which I believe I've raised here before. You see, I would *never* say "I was sat..."; It sounds wrong to me, but everyone seems to say it these days, along with "I was stood...". I'd always assumed it was Northern dialect until my own sister started saying it. She's about as Northern as a jellied eel washed down with pie'n'mash, all the while wearing a pearly queen outfit. I guess it's a sign that language is continually evolving, and that it always has. As we become more mobile within our own countries (not to mention the so-called global community), expressions and ways of speaking will be shared and adopted, becoming less localised.

Which leads me onto a few things which have been concerning me - as if I don't have enough on my proverbial plate (which is, to be fair, more of a smörgåsbord of anxieties). I've always thought of "than" as a pretty handy word, allowing as it does various comparisons along the lines of: "I am a less popular blogger than x", "y has a better job than me", "I am considerably fatter than z" - all phrases which come quite naturally to the status-anxious among us.

Recently, I have noticed people increasingly using "then" instead of "than" in written English. Now, it may just be that I do too much of my reading in Blogland and should go and read something more intellectual (which is not to say that there are no intellectual blogs out there; far from it), but I've seen it enough to wonder whether people have become allergic to (or at least intolerant of) the "a" in this word? Can people really think that "then" is the appropriate word to use in this context? Maybe they are not thinking at all... But should we worry that it is being "published" that way, all over the internet, as if it were correct? Will others read it and start to think that they have been getting it wrong all these years?

Another example is the word lose, which I nearly always see in various fonts on computer screens as "loose". Lose is the verb, loose is the adjective. You do not "loose" weight; you lose weight. And then your trousers become too loose, you see.

In UK English, the word for that metal cylinder thingy with wings which transports you around in the air is an aeroplane. But has anyone noticed that even in the "mainstream" media, it is starting to be replaced by airplane?

This inevitably raises the question (and I can almost hear it brewing in your mind, reader): why on earth do I care?

I have come to realise that the reason I care about language is because I am a linguist. And one day soon, if I keep plugging away at it, caring about language in the comfort of my own home will become my profession, rather than just my hobby.

And if you'll excuse me, I just need to go and order some more hours, because there currently aren't enough in the day.

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