I come from a lifetime love of language, its structure in both written and spoken form, and its ability to engender powerful emotional reaction, such as in poetry.
I was blessed to have a mother who taught me to read and enjoy language well before my beginning school. My books were vital companions, albeit very simply written, full of pictures, and targeted at children.
Later I enjoyed quite accidental contact with some inspired and challenging language teachers in my progressing school years.
One such person was my Latin teacher who reinforced the understanding and use of this ancient language by devoting one school period each month to the exclusive use of Latin conversation where no or little English was permitted.
If a modern term was needed, for example the word "radio", you had to devise a word for it. In the process you had to be able to justify the declension, gender, and case which the word or phrase took. I found this enforced research to be so inspiring that I began to study aspects of the Roman era, such as the army, the legislature, political agenda, and general lifestyle of a nation thousands of years removed from my own. I even began borrowing library books written in Latin and enjoyed them.
I took a similar pleasure in my love of French. This had a powerful effect during my lustful pubescence when I asked my stunningly attractive lady French teacher to conjugate with me. Instead, she declined!
When I moved to a radio career, I was fortunate to be able to indulge my passion for language correctness in the field of broadcast drama, as well as in the application of subtle nuances of expression which could communicate vast amounts of unspoken descriptive inference about an action, attitude, or item..
Something which I came to realise, particularly during my present study of Chinese language and culture is that there is seldom a direct translation for an English word into another language, but more often a thumbnail terminological description is needed.
This is sometimes jokingly exampled in New Guinea's pidgin description of a helicopter as "Mixmaster belongim Jesus". A Chinese example is the word for mobile phone, which is "shouji", made up from "shou' (hand) and "ji" (machine).
Tellingly, my career in radio and television dramatic production sharpened my adverse sensibility to poor speech. When I hear it used, often I wonder about the level of linguistic education of the speaker, particularly if such person holds some kind of broadcasting role of authority.
It is very pronounced (no pun) in sports commentary where there seems to have been a conformist adoption of nasalised vowel tones, unrelated phrases, fast unvaried delivery tempo, and over-simplified expression bordering on the patronising, and often in a loud declamatory style. I find this particularly objectionable on what should be the standards showplace of correctness in speech and language style… the ABC.
There, it is almost a benchmark of admission to sports coverage that one speaks in the manner of low social common denominator, perhaps with emphasis on the word "common". Maybe it is a throwback reaction to those equally unfortunate broadcasting times when a mandatory BBC upper class style was the norm for all broadcasters, suggesting a hearty disdain of "typical Aussie" working class speech.
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