The Dangers of Dictionaries, and Other Hazards of English

By Rank, Tom | English Drama Media, March 2010 | Go to article overview

The Dangers of Dictionaries, and Other Hazards of English


Rank, Tom, English Drama Media


Topicality: journalists thrive on it, apparently. Yet for a a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles it means that although as I write this on February the 14th, the media is awash with pink - love hearts and roses--you, dear reader, will most likely be thinking of Easter eggs, elections, examinations or (I hope) summer holidays. I feel licensed to twitter on, since 'Twitter' was declared the top word of 2009 by Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based algorithm (it seems that even algorithms have a local habitation and a name). The Guardian reported that Twitter beat Obama and H1N1 to first place in print and digital media around the world, not just because social media are 'taking the world by storm,' Paul Payack, President of GLM, said. 'but because it's a fun word which has spawned a whole vocabulary of tweets, twictionaries and even twitterature'. Language and literature continued to wreak their havoc in old ways and new; elsewhere in the States, a parent's complaint over a 'sexually graphic' definition saw Merriam Webster's dictionaries removed from southern Californian schools in January. 'I imagine there are words in there of concern.' said the aptly named Randy Freeman. Thomas Bowlder, thou art living at this hour! 'It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,' district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the Press-Enterprise. Then perhaps, as Byron mocked in Don Juan:

   They only add them all in an appendix
   Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index....

School bans Valentine's Day cards

By the time you read this, I hope to have recovered from my outrage on learning that from the Telegraph that: 'School bans Valentine's Day cards'. The nasty head at Ashcombe Primary School in Weston-Super-Mare told parents that cards declaring love can be 'confusing' for children under the age of 11, 'who are still emotionally and socially developing'. As you might expect, Alec Suttenwood, founder of the Anti-Political Correctness group (trust the Telegraph to know about this one), said: 'It's totally ridiculous.' The rest of his comment was slightly more alarming: 'Young children just send the cards to each other as friends and to their parents. It's just a bit of harmless fun. There is no difference between this and Mothers or Fathers Day.' As Sigmund Freud would have said, 'Interesting: now please tell me about these feelings for your mother, Mr Suttenwood ...' Carrie Quinlan wrote in the Guardian: 'The idea is that children under 11 are too immature to cope with relationships or deal with rejection. Well, I can't manage either of those things and I'm ... 29ish. The thinking seems to be, best not allow complicated social relationships until children become teenagers and are so very emotionally stable. Brilliant. Oh no, hang on ...'

Teenagers can learn the rewards of true love by studying Romeo and Juliet. 'Now, kids, what's Romeo's dilemma now he's fallen for Juliet? What's that Chantelle? Should he unfriend Rosalind or poke Juliet on Facebook, or both?' For those behind the curve, unfriend was announced as the New Oxford American Dictionary's 2009 Word of the Year (it seems there's no official Word of the Year--just about anyone can lay claim to language). Jonathan Lethem said that his number one reason to unfriend someone is 'because they just broke up with you on Facebook'.

Use sand to help young boys write, says government

On Boxing Day last year, a ghost of Christmas past came back to haunt us in the shape of Ken Boston. Leaving behind him the memories of changes to A Levels and GCSEs, not to mention those unhappy little difficulties with the SATS (we won't say 'we told you so'), the former head of QCA looked exceptionally cheerful in the Telegraph, which reported that he wants the next government to 'scrap GSCEs and return to the leaving certificates of the 1950s.' Better a sinner that repenteth of all the times teachers had to make bricks out of straw?

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