Thursday 12 June 2014

Essential Snobbery 101: Don't be a purist, just speak well

Just simply unrefined
It suddenly occurred to me how people are so poorly educated in the use of language or in some cases they make no appreciable effort to improve vocabulary, expression and breath of use beyond the perfunctory.
Sadly, there are too many cases where a lot can said with the finery of prose that conveys a lot more than the animal grunt of a blurted out expletive.
However, people cannot be bothered to exercise themselves through reading good material and elevating their speech to a level of sophisticated comportment.
For a song, it goes
For example, I asked if the cakes on sale at the end of the day were going for a song, now, crudely, one could have asked if the cakes were cheaper, but believe the choice of words make for a better class of person.
You wonder whether Basic English idioms need to be taught in school too. Also in a rather high-brow shop on Jermyn Street a few weeks ago, I could not see myself shelling out so much for so little, so for the convenience of the shopkeeper and the myself, I offered that I would not be making such a big hole in my pocket.
We both understood I would not be buying what they had on sale and I went on my way.
Giving other languages a good shake
In the same vein, I believe I do speak Yoruba quite well and even though I left Northern Nigeria in 1977, I can still get by with rudimentary Hausa.
I find that Yoruba is quite rich in expression, not just through the choice of words, but in the use of idioms, adages and proverbs. Quite recently I have taken to sharing proverbs on Twitter, many quite laden with meaning that only the aficionados would nod in acknowledgement.
What bothers me is how quite a few of us whose mother tongue is English have not only mastered the use of Yoruba, but are sometimes seen as probably better speakers of Yoruba.
Just do it right
The slight perfectionist in me would mostly write with all the essential diacritical marks so as to avoid any misunderstanding, and though one can deduce the context of what is being said without the marks, nothing speaks better than being proper.
Yet, everyday users of the language usually cannot complete a sentence without the use of colloquialisms or borrowed words for all sorts of reasons, a classic case of letting the side down.
Indeed, we should all simplify communication, but at the same time, a lot more is learnt and shared by working a language in all its aesthetic quality – this only comes with a love for learning.
You are not saying it right, work at it and get better, what is worth saying at all, is worth saying right and well.

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