Figures of Speech

Lord Tyler

I took the opportunity of the February Recess to pay a fascinating first visit to India.   So many impressions, but only room for one here:  quite apart from our success in tracking down some family connections, I was struck by the resilience of the English language – often in a delightfully dated form.  My daily reading of The Times of India produced some gems.  I particularly enjoyed “Sources said Sonia expressed her peeve…”, under the headline “Cong Chief Ticks Off Ally”,  when the Congress chair met some coalition colleagues threatening to leave the national government.   The same report referred to the trouble-makers “playing hardball”, while Mrs Gandhi “is not the last word on alliances, she does not get into the nitty-gritty of seats.”   The business and sports pages entertained some similar colloquialisms:  “The 27-year-old Malinga took a career best 6-38, including his second World Cup hat-trick, against a Kenyan side bamboozled by his unique slingshot action.”

I returned to the Lords pondering how such colourful language could be deployed by some of our  foremost orators of the old school – Lord Kinnock perhaps, or Lord Elystan-Morgan, or my fellow blogger Lord Norton of Louth.

I wouldn’t dare put words into their distinguished mouths, but I can imagine The Times of India report of their efforts:  “Late night shenanigans in the Peerage House, with foot-dragging speeches from a battle-weary unholy dalliance of leftish and rightish aristos, left parliamentary insomniacs spell-bound.  Coalite Ministers expressed their peeve, but were manfully overcome by the bamboozling verbosity of the pandits  …..”

Seriously, we should take pride in the almost infinite evolution of the English language, which has given it such remarkable staying power in so many parts of the globe, and not let it get fossilised here in the UK.  I understand that more students learn English in China than in the USA.  When we next review the worldwide impact of the BBC, radio and TV, all this should give us food for thought.

3 comments for “Figures of Speech

  1. Gareth Howell
    17/03/2011 at 8:21 am

    Seriously, we should take pride in the almost infinite evolution of the English language, which has given it such remarkable staying power in so many parts of the globe, and not let it get fossilised here in the UK.

    I should like to visit Kerala.

    It is not the language that has given English the staying power but English Law, now thought of more as US law.

    Globalism may entail one global second language, English, but that may itself entail Macdonalds fast food culture worldwide as well.

    There must certainly be half a dozen principal languages including Gujarati, in India, all of which are probably spoken by more people than live in the these British islands and speak English as their first language.

    I take no pride in English. I do take pride in the cultures of Wales and Scotland re-asserting themselves in the last few years, with their attendant “fossils”.

    The culture of India is very diverse indeed.

    • maude elwes
      17/03/2011 at 4:52 pm

      Are you, Gareth Howell, telling us in your roundabout way, that we are therefore a ‘minority’ population as Englishmen/women and therefore deserve just as much cultural respect and assistance as the Indian nation?

      Perhaps we should lobby India’s very wealthy government for some of their vast funds in foreign aid in order to feed our poor and heal our sick. We could also do with new schools who went out of their way to teach the children here to speak their native language in this their native country.

      That may get a few votes.

  2. MilesJSD
    18/03/2011 at 6:15 am

    Lord Soley, I think you are wrong in this Post.

    Yes, there is an expressive, and an exact, English language, and it would be available, world-wide, if only a sufficient number of English first-language people would use it and not allow corruption of it to go on being spread, again dominantly by the English themselves;

    so No
    it is not yet a language fit and good-for-the-world;not as you have mistakenly-surmised and politically-overstated “evolving” but de-volving.
    English has long been being corrupted throughout, by governmental and academic malfeasance and apathy, fir instance by such crooked-terms as “ethnic-cleansing”, “friendly-fire”, “must let this employee go” – when the fact of those negativities on-the-ground is respectively
    “shot-in-the-back-by-own-troops” and
    “sacked, fired, no-good, kicked-out”.

    Then there are forked-tongue British “leaders” broadcasting other those and untruths to the world;

    such as that “PM Brown was never elected by the People; but PM Cameron was”
    (Foreign Minister Hague still has not retracted his major share of that worldwide party-political deception and terminological-inexactitude, to the best of my information and knowledge).

    Therefore a citizen can only advise “Think before you jump overboard for a happy swim in the beautiful-waters-of-the-world which, once, but long ago now, were ruled in turn by the British Houses of Parliament and by Britannia, but no longer Clive ; please”.

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