Infox verses Nothingburger… I think we need to talk.

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  • Two consecutive days, two articles about language, two different approaches ... discuss.
  • Two consecutive days, two articles about language, two different approaches ... discuss.
My previous blog post entitled " THE ACHADAMIE ANGLAIS? NO THANK YOU!" explained how the English Langauge was left to evolve naturally in much the same way as a species of animal will evolve in order to cope with its habitat. You only have to look at the differences between British and American English to see how each version has specific phrases that are unique to their environment.

British English may use the phrase "A few sandwiches short of a picnic" to describe somebody lacking common sense, but if you offered to explain such a phrase to the average American they would probably take a "rain check".

The thing about English is that it does consist of a very high percentage of words that originated in French. We have the invasion of William the Conqueror to thank for that. Those poor Anglo Saxon savages that were overrun following the Battle of Hastings had little opportunity to take revenge on the assault on their language by the invading Normans. I imagine that it was decided by the feudal lords of Mercia to play the long game and over the centuries take linguistic revenge on the French.

 It is a technique that we have used vigorously over the years causing the Académie Française into near apoplectic shock on occasions, especially when the French youth refuse to envoyer un courrier électronique, preferring instead to envoyer un e-mail
  • The Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language declares war on 'fake news'.

But this week it wasn't Cardinal Richelieu's little band of octogenarian spell checkers that took offence but the Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language. They declared war on "fake news".

Not the concept, the phrase.

They have asked that the phrase "information fallacieuse" be used instead. A phrase that trips off the tongue as delightfully as J'ai amené mon baladeur à la réunion de réseautage. Which I think means something similar to I brought my Walkman to the networking meeting. A weird phrase but an example that shows that to network and to have a meeting are English words enshrined in business French. However, they have conceded that they would be willing to accept an abbreviated version - "infox". That is irony at its best since it is Fox News and the likes of Sean Hannity who would appear to be generating the majority of the fake news stories in the first place. 

Infox could therefore quite easily be an English phrase or hashtag ... sorry mot-diese.

I really am of two minds about this whole protectionism thing in language. On the one hand, I can see that languages evolve and prosper or die out, that is the nature of evolution, I refer back to my earlier simile likening a language to a species of animal. Then again I can also see the desire of a culture to keep its language and the purity of its language. For example, it is important that the Welsh language should be taught in Welsh schools and the Gallic in Scotland and Ireland etc.

However, where it becomes a bit tiresome, in my humble opinion, is when you get the language Gestapo, stomping over everything in their jackboots demanding purity.

  • At the other end of the scale, this week also saw the Oxford English Dictionary publish its new words.
At the other end of the scale, this week also saw the Oxford English Dictionary publish its new words. In the recent past, we have seen wordie (i'm guilty), mansplaining (i'm not guilty - I think/hope), and most famously Brexit (yawn)

This week have Fam - close friends or members of a particular group and also nothingburger a person or thing of no importance and idiocracy a society consisting of or governed by people characterised as idiots.

So, there are the two extremes, one language looking for complete purity of influence from another and the other willing to accept all sorts of manipulations. It is a situation that is, in my opinion totally glimtasbasical.

Surely there is room for both. After all, it was a long time ago that the English Language rulebook was defenestrated - probably one of the first Norman words that William the Conquer insisted we use.

A word that means a dichotomy of two opposing views, where each party is convinced they are right and will lobby endlessly about the subject, but the rest of humanity really couldn’t care less because quite frankly there are more critical issues in the world today.

… and don’t forget when you see that word in the OED next March – just remember who invented it and where you saw it first.