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.