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Point of View

“Common Usage” – Distorting the English Language?

I was listening to the radio on my way into work the other day. The hosts of the morning show were discussing the concept of “Common Usage” in comic detail. This conversation started me thinking about how language changes over time, and not necessarily for the better.

Library Card


Last night I attended a friend’s citizenship ceremony in Sydney, Australia. In addition to the usual pomp of a special moment like this, a gentleman representing the local library stood up and suggested all these new Australians register for their library card to take advantage of its great resources. He pointed out that this was especially important to those in the audience who were struggling to learn English. I was taken aback by this rather inappropriate comment, as was the rest of the room. And it was rather telling coming from someone who works for the (local) government.

I am truly consumed by technology…

Eyemask_3 I had 2 things happen recently that made me realise the grip the Internet and technology have over my life.

Last week I posted the Englishlink Word of the Day and was soon told by my German friend Fritz that I referred to the glasses you swim in as googles. I spelled the word like this not once, but 3 times. I must do too many searches…

The Complication of English

According to one of my favourite sites, Wikipedia, the longest English word is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Apparently the word was invented as a hoax, but is now used to reflect the original ‘joke’ meaning – something medical to do with the lungs. English has one of the most extensive vocabularies of any language, but a lot of words are through modification – adding an ‘un’ here and a ‘ness’ there, a subtle ‘dis’ and a discrete ‘ly’.

How can I even say this?


With about 2,700 languages in the world, it amazes me that there can be so many ways to say the same thing. The number of sounds that represent agreement is an example…yes, oui, da, si, ayo, hai, i-o, ego, ari, nda, jo tokkiisa, gea…If you believe the Biblical story of the tower of Babel, people all spoke one language in the past. This changed when they starting building a tower to see God, which he did not like. He told them to stop and they ignored Him. So, God had had to punish them for not listening. He cursed them by making them all speak different languages. They all went elsewhere and took their new langauges with them. Good for Sunday school, but not quite enough.