There’s nothing surprising about this headline, but the article is as pathetic as one would expect of the mainstream media trying oh-so-desperately to comment on matters linguistic.

Not surprising, because in my experience (which does, of course, constitute a statistically significant example and would withstand peer review in even the most rigorous journal), younger Poms tend to have a mild local accent but generally sound like they stepped out of the hallowed halls of the BBC. Older Poms tend to be incomprehensible by anybody who was not born within a five mile radius of their home village. Yes, I’m exaggerating. But the principle holds. Younger Poms have less of an accent and more “standard” English than their older counterparts.

Pathetic? Do I need to go into the details? I ain’t no professional linguist, just a language learner and teacher. There’s a difference. And yet even I can tell this would be laughed out of any first year introductory linguistics class at any institute legally entitled to call itself a university.

Example:

And while 85 percent of Britons knew “weiner” was German for sausage,

Oh, please, learn to spell. A quick google shows you ‘weiner‘ is not the word you’re looking for. If it’s sausage you want, wiener, meaning of or from Wien- Vienna- is the word you need.

That would be the worst example I can spot, but the article as a whole, well, if one of my students had handed that in, it would’ve failed. Miserably.

4 Responses to “no surprise, but are there any literate journalists left?”

  1. Lady Says:

    Was passing through your blog (found it through a link of a link of a link—yes, I was blog surfing) :)

    This post of yours really cracked me up! While I don’t like to consider myself a grammar and spelling Nazi (I’m more of a linguist than an English major), I can’t help but squirm and take note of the horrible quality of written English nowadays. It seems to me that there’s a lack of quality control of some sort. Oh well….

  2. wangbo Says:

    Hi Lady. Blog surfing is good.

    Yep, there’s definitely been a lack of quality control for quite some time now, and I find it quite depressing, really. I would’ve thought people who are paid to write and edit English should be capable of writing reasonably decent English. Guess I’m just old-fashioned or something.

  3. michael Says:

    I think you’re all wrong. The article is stupid because it assumes that Britons’ ignorance of other British dialects means they are dying out. I grew up in Yorkshire where we couldn’t understand half the words used by people from two valleys away, let alone dialects from the other side of the country.
    You’re right that younger Brits tend to have more homogenised accents (notherners are adopting the London glottal stop and drop haiches ‘innit’) – but I find them harder, not easier, to understand.
    Brits of my generation and earlier had strong local accents but they enunciated their words clearly, in contrast to the slurred speech of generation Y.

  4. wangbo Says:

    Michael, you’re first point is good, but I don’t see how it makes me wrong. There’s still a basic literacy problem with the journalist and sub-editor.

    As for your second point, you have to understand I have no idea what is happening in England. All I know is what I’ve observed of English travellers and expats. The younger English travellers and expats do, in my experience, tend to speak a much more BBC-ised “standard” English and are therefore easier to understand, whereas the older generations have stronger accents that throw me off. If those who stay in England really are learning a dumbed-down, piss-poorly-educated, and therefore incomprehensible English, then you really have to worry about the future of your country.

    I’m using the word English all the time, because I dislike the term ‘Brit’- although I don’t really want to get into that discussion. Still, in my much more limited experience, Scots seem to follow the same pattern.