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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Purity of the English Language

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

James Nicoll


Warren said...

Well, that's true, but it gives it a kind of versatility and expressiveness perhaps not found in other languages. It also makes fine English writing inaccessible to those who learn from rote and text; like an art, it maddeningly refuses to be constrained by rigid rules and formulas. Only a long and passionate association can lend the author facility with its moods and guises.

Twoton said...

You're absolutely right. The post was aimed at those who try defend any "pure language". There is no such thing - languages, like living beings, undergo evolution, and the language of Shakespeare, Voltaire, Goethe and their contemporaries is eons away from their successors in use today. And like any evolution, it's an organic process you can't stop. It's been less than a century that words like "gay" (in English) "bureau" (in English as well as German) had a completely different meaning.