"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Apr 26, 2009

Back to blogging in plain language - maybe

I have taken a bit of a break from blogging recently as anyone who is a regular reader here will have noted. My main reason has simply been lack of time. With far too much going on something had to give and in this case it was my regular blog posting.

My regular reading of a number of other blogs also went by the wayside for a few weeks as well so I am looking forward to catching up with whats been going on with everyone elses blogs.

At work we are having a considerable push towards trying to use plain language more in all our communications. I wouldn't claim that this blog has always been a champion of the "Plain English" approach to writing. In its most extreme form the champions of Plain English appear to decry the use of any word over three syllables that doesn't have Anglo-Saxon roots.

Personally I love the richness of the English language and I think it would be a shame if we avoided the use of a large part of our linguistic heritage. Words which often have their roots in Latin and Greek are for example an important part of the English language and add to its expressiveness.

Nevertheless I can see the sense in much of the push towards the use of Plain English - or plain language for those Scots who aren't comfortable with the fact that the language they speak is English.

One of my resolutions as I return to more active blogging is that I am going to watch my language but I am certainly not going to to eschew the use of the occassional less familiar word though.

And there's a case in point. Eschew. Do you know the roots of that word? I didn't so I looked it up. I suspected that it probably has a Latin or French root and so is one of those Frenchified fancy words that I really should be avoiding if I am going to use a plain English ( sorry - plain language) approach.

But hang on. Eschew is from Middle English. Yes, it turns out that it's a good old Anglo-Saxon word and the original Middle English version seems to have been eschewen.

I would be interested to hear what any readers think about the drive for Plain English.


Marf said...

I don't have a problem with using words that have Latin or Greek origins. The "British" English can be somewhat hard to understand at times, though.

Things like the word "holiday" that means vacation to you, but to me it's a nationally recognized day.

Delirious said...

Nice to see you back. I was beginning to think that you converted to Christianity and were too embarassed to continue with your blog's current theme. ;)

Looney said...

Yes, it is good to see you back!

Regarding the plain language subject, my main thought is that 100 years ago, English words had on average 1.34 meanings. Today, they have 5.62 meanings. Thus, by using obscure words that haven't been touched for a century, it is possible to greatly reduce the ambiguity that necessarily arises from modern plain English!

Marf said...

@ Looney: That's an unsustainable curve...

Bunc said...

It will be my mission to rescue an obscure english word from the oblivion of disuse now and then.

rummuser said...

Bunc, I am delighted to have you back blogging. Welcome back.

I for one believe that we simply allow nature to take care of language. I do not use the same English that my father uses and my son does not use the one that I do. There is however a kind of transition going on and that is the beauty of English that it allows it to happen.

I am however all for simple English in one area of our lives and that is the legal profession. Contracts, writs, decrees etc sound so difficult that we appear to need lawyers just to translate to and from us to suit their convenience.

We have another problem with the English language and that is Americanization of it. This is one of my pet peeves that my spelling is challenged by Bill Gates!

Bunc said...

Hi Rummuser,
Its good to be back and I will pay you a visit shortly.
I think you are right that the language evolves naturally and that is indeed one of the strengths of English. The meaning of words can Morph over time. The word nice is a nice example of that.
Because English has roots in and borrowed from a number of languages there are ofetn a number of ways to say the same thing using different words with subtly different meanings.
I certainly agree with you about "legalese".

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