Friday, November 11, 2005

Have or Of? The metamorphosis of language

Went to the pub with Nic last night and at one point when she took herself off to the Ladies I sat earwigging two South African girls at the other end of our table. I wasn't really listening properly but at one point heard one say 'I should of...'. It was so clearly 'of' that she used that I was quite taken aback, it grated. It's a common mistake in the written form, but it struck me that the way she articulated 'of' while technically incorrect, it sounded far more comfortable. Now Nic would hate this she's a real stickler for correct usage of English, me I'm much more keen on the adaptation of language.

I'm a big fan of the way that language has been impacted by text messaging. I heard Stephen Fry interviewed the other day a big advocate of the adaptation and chameleon like nature of the English language - he's currently promoting a Christmas book called 'The Ode Less Traveled' about the construction of poetry. The premise for the book is that people need to be taught how to write a poem in much the same way as they are taught to play an instrument - anyway he relayed a story about his 12 year old nephew. He had recently given him a present to which he received the reply 'Heh that's book'. Being perplexed by the term, he asked his nephew what he meant. 'You know book, cool' his nephew replied. Fry looked perplexed, so his nephew pulled out his phone, flicked to text (predictive of course) and spelt out cool which of course actually spells, book when the predictive function is on. And there we have it the birth of a new term, the natural metamorphosis of language.

Thinking on the South African's use of 'of' rather than 'have' it struck me that it has to be a front runner as a term that will become acceptable in time. The tipping point will come some time in the future and of course the purists will hate it but personally that's what I love about the English language, it's great adaptability.

6 comments:

Span Ows said...

I was going to ask if you were SURE she hadn't said would've and it sounded like 'would of' but then read your link!

'Offshore' English is the most spoken language in the world...we can count ourselves lucky we know the correct original!

Kayfer Kettle said...

Now if I was saying this, because of having a West London accent, I'd say 'I should a done that'.

In my head it's 'have', but accent makes it indistinguishable between 'have' and 'of'.

I would have to be awkward!

K x

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