29 October 2007

Aunty needs a minder

Yesterday's Observer carried the following story: Mind your language, critics warn BBC.

About flaming time...

As a child, I can actually remember being told that the BBC was the arbiter of the Queen's English (we lack the equivalent of an Academie Francaise, you see). My English has always been extremely good, hence why I ended up in this trade, but even up until recently if I was unsure of something I could rely on the BBC to point me in the right direction on matters of language. Sadly, this is no longer true. And we certainly can't rely on the government to set standards - standards in English are what have been falling in schools for the last 30 years.

Tot take one example, the BBC website is a disgrace, from the language point of view. Most news reports on it carry at least one spelling error, not to mention poor punctuation and distinctly dodgy grammar. For a while I took a perverse pleasure in finding the errors then emailing BBC News Online to complain and see how long it took them to correct the page. But no more, because the errors are so many and widespread I'd never get any work done. It does make for an amusing read, though.

I hope the BBC does appoint a language chief. It certainly needs one. This may also be the only time I will ever agree with Ann Widdecombe on anything.

2 comments:

See Me Repeat Me said...

Whoa, you guys take English far more seriously than we Americans do. None of us are aware of any kind of standard bearers for American English. Sure, prestige publications such as the New York Times and Washington Post have been viewed as quality publications, but so few of us actually look to them for cues on the "proper" usage of our own brand of English. I suppose it's because our English was invented specifically as a deliberate bastardization of an already established language; Noah Webster showed his rebellious Revolutionary War-era spirit by encouraging as far a distance between the English as it was on the British Isles and the English of the colonies. So.

(I do admire the way the contributors to Atlantic Monthly magazine utilize the English language, though.)

wordsmith_for_hire said...

Napoleon called us a nation of shopkeepers. I prefer to think of us as a nation of pedants! There are quite a few things I love about the USA - Hollywood and rock 'n' roll being just 2 (oh and Levis) - but American English isn't one of them. I think this is mainly because a lot of really irritating expressions have crept across the pond and infected our native tongue here. I often have to edit things such as "will likely be" to "will probably be" - people here don't realise that "will likely" is US English. It's interesting that some words such as gotten are back in use here now as a result of pond creep - gotten fell out of use here after Shakespearean times! Your language has given us some great words though, it has to be said.