The Blogging Parlour

I think I have some biscuit crumbs down my trousers.

English

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I wish someone would do some language maintenance.

English wasn’t intended for this sort of use and uptime. The original merger between Anglo-Saxon and Norman caused a whole raft of problems that centuries of hotfixes haven’t solved, and frankly it’s time somebody took the language down for maintenance and cleaned out some of the cruft. I don’t think that’s going to cut it, though.

We have overlapping vocabulary, homophones galore, semantic ambiguity, syntactic inconsistency, dozens of irregular verbs, orphaned antonyms, don’t get me started on the overloading of “set”, and the less said about the spelling the better. Some of the worst problems have been going on for so long the workarounds have become accepted parts of the workflow and the users will complain if we take them out! The American English branch project didn’t address any of the serious problems and added its own complications, and so far they’re refusing to merge, preferring instead to fork the language so now English has split its userbase with its own fork while still being expected to remain completely compatible!

Until we can get funding to develop English 2.0 (some time before Hell freezes over in this economy!), we’re going to have to get a complete shutdown at regular intervals to clean the nouns and check the tenses for signs of wear to prevent any further deterioration of the language. All I know is that if we keep running English the way we have been, we’re going to have a catastrophic failure on our hands, and I, for one, do not intend to have to learn French.

 

This post began life as a comment on Rock Paper Shotgun in response to Dozer.

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5 thoughts on “English

  1. Lawful Evil on said:

    Wut? I understand not what ye sayin. What r u upset bout? Evolution Mr Sm..something, evolution, is at hand.

  2. somini on said:

    Pff. You can always move on to Esperanto, it was made to work well.
    Sure, it has a learning curve and nearly no one speaks it, but it’s the best language.

  3. “If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.”
    –British Olympian, don’t remember his name

  4. Bah, I say! I love English’s status as a living, unregulated language. We don’t need stuffy grammarians trying to force us into some Latinate mold – and I say that as a (amateur) grammarian! Like sex, it’s squishy, messy, sometimes smelly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Much great literature, and especially poetry, relies intimately on the ambiguity you describe. The tantalizing non-sequitur of idioms like “humble pie*” give our language personality and a sense of history, like the wrinkles on a wise grandparent’s face.

    *Which is actually one of the more straightforward ones. Long story short, it used to be a homophonic pun, but changing pronunciations, along with the fact that nobody knows what the hell umbles are anymore (deer guts or something like that, fuck if I know), killed it. Yet it soldiers on regardless!

    In all seriousness, I really loathe the top-down regulation of the French language and I’m glad we don’t have that in English.

  5. John Smith on said:

    English may be very irregular and difficult to learn, but IMO the expressiveness and flexibility that comes with it is definitely worth it. The great thing about English (and this is one of the core things that applies to all the many forks of it) is that it assumes the speaker knows what they’re doing, instead of getting in the way by enforcing strict case types and whatnot.

    This makes it ideally suited for critical use-cases like poetry and literature, where the speaker must push the language to it’s limits. This is where English really shines. As a beginner’s language, sure there’s difficulties and I think there is definitely progress to be made in cleaning up certain anomalies in the syntax.

    A stronger language like German is where you want to be looking if you prefer something more predictable and secure. But gosh, have you seen German poetry? It’s god-awfully ugly. Try printing a simple “I love you” and you’ll see what I mean – output should not consistently sound like a drill instructor’s commands.

    And @somini, the problem with Esperanto is different people want it to be different things. It seems to be headed in the same direction as English in terms of fragmentation, with some people using it as a vehicle of social activism while others are using it to ease the translation process by making only one port of a text that, with wider adoption in an ideal world, could run cross-nation.

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