Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Looking back to move on up

The level of written and spoken English in the UK leaves much to be desired. I vividly remember noticing this when I arrived at University because I - a foreigner - thought then, that everyone on this shores spoke Queen's English. So it was with some shock that I heard people say things like

"Are yous looking at us?"


"Who been eating my cheese?"


"M & S's are having a big sale this week"

Recently with my foray into poetry (especially that of George Herbert) I've begun noticing that some of the great writers of old also spoke some funny English. Think of Herbert's great lines from his poem Collar

Me thoughts I heard one calling "Child!"
And I replied "My Lord".

Now before castigating Herbert and other ancient writers for their poor form, we need to remember that we are the recipients - down stream - of an excellent heritage that continually needs to be adorned and developed. The fact that our command of English is no better (and probably worse) than that spoken by the recent entrants to the great crowd of witnesses which surrounds us, should leave us with shame, bring us to repent and make us read some poetry.

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