English Austerity by Sandra Horn

          Someone once said to me, in that withering kind of way, ‘Oh,
Sandra Horn
Sandra, you do fall in love!’
         He didn’t mean I was serial adulterer, perish the thought, but that I tend to have great passions about various things.
         It’s true! Discovering an artist, writer, place, piece of music sets me off on a wild-eyed quest to find out more, revisit, bore the pants off anyone who’ll listen to the latest enthusiastic outpourings – have you HEARD Sans-Saens’ Introduction and rondo capriccioso?
          Have you READ Alice Oswald, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, etc. etc.
          Have you BEEN TO that church in Dorset with windows by Whistler?
          Followed by rant rant rant until my listener’s eyes glaze over and I realise I’ve done it again. Gone too far. It’s immature, I know, but here I go again.
          The English language!! The subtle, playful, rich, amazing, various, musical, poetic, tricky, wonderful stuff we’ve all grown up with. The puns, rhymes, rhythms, kennings, litotes, hyperboles, alliterations, onomatopoeia – oh, the positively orgasmic delights of it! All those people out there who don’t know their asses from their arses, their alternate from alternative, distinct from distinctive, disinterested from not interested, apostrophe-scatterers or ignorers, etc. don’t know what they’re missing.
          And what about that boffin from Oxford who said spelling and punctuation don’t matter? Apoplexy! ‘Let’s all go back to grunt-and-point, then, shall we?’ I yelled. But then, in a road-to-Damascus moment, I saw the error of my ways..
          Hallelujah! Now I’m saved! I realise that I’ve been a heretic, a pedant, and I’d got it all wrong. It’s extravagant, that’s what it is. It has no place in Austerity Britain, The Big Society, We’re All in it Together, etc.  We should forget all about that self-indulgent stuff and in all humility, do exactly that - go back to grunt and point!
         Think of the savings! We could close ALL libraries for a start, and printing presses and bookshops. The school day would be much shorter, as would theatrical performances. Conversations wouldn’t intrude on the important business of  - er – whatever it is we are going to do when we’re not indulging ourselves playing around with language.  Not writing, obviously. Oh.

          Rant over. By the way, I loved the ebook fest! How brilliantly clever it was! Huge thanks to all concerned! Whoops, here I go again…


julia jones said…
You're quite right of course - about the English language - and I also think that I know the church in Dorset that you mean. I have a sad memory though. A good friend from university lived near there. Her parent ran a school, I think. After uni she left to go travelling in Thailand where she was murdered. Her sister had previously committed suicide. I didn't know the sister and the two deaths were unrelated. We all subscribed for Whistler glass engravings to commorate the sisters. Oh how I remember that church on the day of the funeral. It was full, the rain poured down, I had my 9 day old daughter who wouldn't stop crying so spent most on the time trying to find shelter outside. And do you know? The church refused our windows because of prejudice against the suicide. They are now in Salisbury cathedral. I see I've written a rant of a different kind. Back to the beauties of language ...
CallyPhillips said…
Loved your post Sandra (and you can rant on about how great the ebook fest was for ever as far as I'm concerned - especially now when it seems like a) a distant past and b) a lot of work for nothing.)
And then Julia's comment. Put together there is something truly profound. About communication. Which is one of languages great functions (though I'm dealing a lot in Scots and Scots/English and that debacle at the moment) Julia shows how one person's memory impacts upon another's and how in some small way we can all be connected and yes, possibly HELP each other simply by recounting and sharing our experiences. And sometimes we can do this through ficton. Which is what (for me) it's really all about) Thank you ladies, both, giving me something to perk me up (even through the horror of sadness) on a Sunday morning. The human spirit CAN be communicated - and better perhaps through language than through grunt and point! Write on.
Susan Price said…
That's a sad story, Julia.
But Sandra, just to be awkward - my middle name - can I say that punctuation and grammar are importany only as far as they make communication easier? - They're not, in themselves, important.
For instance, how would you feel about this punctuation? - 'I sha'n't. - He wo'n't."
Right or wrong?
I'm reading a book by Wilkie Collins at the moment - The Dead Secret - and that's how it's punctuated. If the apostrophe marks the missing letters, then it's more correct than our 'I shan't.'
Jan Needle said…
Up to a point, Lord Copper. One of the things that's always worried me is the universal approbation that greeted (and still greets) Churchill's raving about English being the 'best language in the world'. It isn't. Everyone's language is the best language in the world, and everyone can express things in their own language which don't mean exactly the same thing in somebody else's language. In Wales, Welsh is known as the language of heaven. Not so long ago, in English, sad meant full up. Many academic film 'deconstructionists' write about their subject in a language that I can't understand, although I've been around a damn long time and English is my native language. If somebody can write an English sentence that I can't understand, I'm not prepared to accept that it is good English.

Not that Sandra said any of this, of course. But it appears to be the morning for rants, so I thought I'd better join in! Go Sandra! (Or should I say: Your enthusiasm, and passionate dialectic, touches me in many and varied areas of my frontal cortex, if you'll forgive the possible (nay, indeed, probably) solecism, so i offer unqualified encouragement (as the actress said to the impotent bishop) to keep it up.)

I'll get me coat
Lydia Bennet said…
yay, Sandra, enthuse away! My own euphoric rantings have often embarrassed my nearest and dearest, but sod em!
Lydia Bennet said…
Julia, your story is heartbreaking and makes me so furious... this is the kind of thing that gives religion a bad name (together with genocide, sexism, cruelty, child abuse, hypocrisy etc of course).
Lee said…
Good point about punctuation & grammar, Susan. Except when the point is to make communication more difficult.


(If you wonder what I'm on about, try disentangling academic German sentences into English, as I'm grappling with at the moment!)

I adore the enthusiasms of others (Rupert Thomson's wax sculptures in Secrecy, for example), and sometimes, it's even catching. But for a change, I'll leave everyone else to do the ranting.

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