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Links With Your Coffee - Monday

Coffee Cup

The Times of London has published an article on an effort by the Queen’s English Society to establish an Academy of English to combat the “dreadful devaluation and deterioration of education in our hectic, modern, digitalised world — we do desperately need some form of moderating body to set an accepted standard of good English.”

Martin Estinel, the prime advocate of the academy, hopes that it will achieve the eminence (largely illusory, I’m afraid) of its French counterpart. He said, “I would love the academy to have a Royal Charter.”

One can only image how a plenary session of such an academy would proceed. [Music fades out, then fades in, accompanied by sounds of murmuring and many voices.]

CHAIRMAN. Order, order. The Chair recognizes Mr. Wattles.

MR. WATTLES. Mr. Chairman, learned members, we have suffered the assaults on our noble language for far too long. Texting. [Calls of “Hear, hear”] Americanisms. [Applause] Shoddy grammar and shameless syntax. [Loud applause] The barbarians are at the gates. We may have surrendered the Empire, but we shall not, shall never, never, never surrender the empire of the English language. [Ovation]




"The barbarians are at the gates. We may have surrendered the Empire, but we shall not, shall never, never, never surrender the empire of the English language. [Ovation]"

Well, what will he do about the American "will not, will never"?

Can someone explain the 'American "will not, will never"' for the benefit of an ignorant Brit, please?

Oh, I thought there was something more to it than that. The reasoning (or part thereof) behind the formation of The Academy of English was given on Radio 4 yesterday as being the need to ensure precision in language. I had the difference between "shall" and "will" explained by the story of a man waving desperately in the sea and calling out. A potential rescuer, a grammarian, ran to the shore and heard "I will drown; no one shall save me", and so he walked away. The point being that the sentence actually means "I mean to drown, and no one had better save me." Precision can be a bitch!

Oh, another thing. "SHALL We Dance?" was an American film (Astaire and Rogers, I believe) and it was the title of a song in The King and I by Rogers and Hammerstein who were also American. Correct usage in the US - at least in the fairly recent past!

In the original Broadway production (1951), Yul Brynner was The King and Gertrude Lawrence was played by Anna. Yul Brynner played the King and Deborah Kerr played Anna in the 1956 movie. The King was Yul Brynner's signature role, and he played the character quite a few times.

More 'research' indicates that there is confusion, even among the confused (and that includes me). Wiki states "The most influential proponent of the distinction [between will and shall] was John Wallis, whose 1653 Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae stated "The rule is... to express a future event without emotional overtones, one should say I shall, we shall, but you/he/she/they will; conversely, for emphasis, willfulness, or insistence, one should say I/we will, but you/he/she/they shall"." Thus one requires to change the story of the drowning man completely around if this interpretation is followed.

There you go - I have re-read my last posting after a cup of coffee I retract my last statement, and claim that, in the words (almost) of Billy Joel, I got it right the first time.

More fun is with "ain't". The above mentioned site discusses that too.

But I have also read that in the early 19th century, and maybe the 18th, "ain't" was a commonly accepted form.

"Aren't I?" has always bothered me.

"It ain't me, Babe, it ain't me you're looking for."

"Ain't she sweet?"

There are many songs where "isn't" just ain't right.

There are many songs where "isn't" just ain't right.

ain't that the truth.


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