English – The Great Bastard Language

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How many countries would you say use some form or other of the English language? Well I can tell you because I have just counted them – seventeen in all, (see the list below) not including the use of the English language by various commercial users like the airlines of the world, international shipping, and international search and rescue organisations etc, etc.

When I was a young boy here in the English county of Suffolk, the older generation’s use of colloquial English differed from our cousins in the next county to the north – Norfolk. If you travelled south from here to Essex you would stand out like a sore thumb not only by your county accent but by the way you spoke.

When I left here for the distant shores of New Zealand in the late 1950’s with my parents, within a year I lost my Suffolk accent, trading it in for a soft Kiwi one. For the next forty two years I lived, breathed, and devoured English as it is spoken in New Zealand. Until I returned here to England in 2000, I didn’t fully appreciate just how different I sounded, and how I used the language compared to an English speaking Englishman.

My first meeting with an elderly cousin of my father quickly made me realise how jealously guarded the English version of the language was by his generation. He came from that generation that had grown up when England still thought of itself as the leader of an Empire; where correct pronunciation was king, and to have any kind of county accent was anathema to their ears.

As soon as I opened my mouth you could see him visibly cringe as pure Kiwi came flooding out, assaulting his ears. To his generation, my accent, which I still proudly retain, spoke to him of colonies of the British Empire far off in the South Seas.

I wonder how he would react to the seventeen forms of English now in use across the world?

Despite what he and his generation might say, the English language is not a pure language. It is an amalgam of many early European languages, full of borrowed or corrupted words from countries like Germany and France to name but two for example.

Does it really matter in this day and age if it is no longer spoken in the received pronunciation of the old BBC announcers of yesteryear? Language is a living thing, constantly in a state of flux. What difference does it make if each of the seventeen countries using the language spells the same word differently?

Take the word aluminium for example. Here in England it is spelt as I have just written it, while in the United States it is spelt aluminum. Does it matter? No of course it doesn’t. For a bastard, the English language is doing alright thank you very much and long may it continue to do so…

Countries using their own version of the English language:

Australia

Belize

Canada

Hong Kong

India

Indonesia

Ireland

Jamaica

Malaysia

New Zealand

Republic of the Philippines

Singapore

South Africa

Trinidad and Tobago

United Kingdom

United States

Zimbabwe

 

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6 thoughts on “English – The Great Bastard Language

  1. Unless they ban the English language altogether in Scotland and insist everyone learn/re-learn the Gaelic, which, given the strong feelings on both sides, seems a distinct possibility!

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