Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#146: Stray Cat Strut

I got cat class, and I got cat style…no, seriously, I do. I’m a feline Casanova, really, I am. I’ll strut right by with my tail in the air and get my dinner from a garbage can, and have a shoe thrown at me by a mean old man…

I trust you can understand that because the new standards of writing are about to be dropped upon anyone working at a professional level and those standards are, well, lacking to say the best. For years I’ve been guided, like most professional writers, by the official Governmental Style Guide (6th edition, published 2002, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Australia) but in our most recent team meeting I was told that I need not refer to that brilliant, and expensive, volume anymore. It’s out of date. That might well be the truth, but when I consider the alternatives I feel that I might as well give up and stop writing.

Why? Here’s some of the reasons. First and foremost all documents have to be written in such a way that they could be understood by a Year 10 student. That means the removal of complex terminology, no matter how relevant and removing jargon, using ‘simple English’, ie: instead of words like ‘extensive’ we now are told to use ‘lots’, ‘innovation’ is now ‘idea’ – you get the drift. It makes me want to vomit, sorry; spew me fuckin’ guts up m8. I expect that as the average Year 10 student now speaks in Textese we’ll soon be reduced to sending emails and official briefings in a manner that’ll require a seven year old codebreaker. IMHO Idk y bother, bt wen I sed “Jk, rotflmao,” I wz told, “Stfu & btw, gtfo.” I’m cool wit dat. Gr8.

We’re now told that a sentence cannot contain more than 12 to 14 words. Anything more than that will lose the person reading it. No biggie, I’d be happy for a few people to be lost. Each paragraph must be focused on the one point – this I can agree with, but each document can be no more than two hands – ie: one page, no more.

It doesn’t end. Email signatures now have to be changed. No more italics or bolding. Why? Because when you italic or bold, or otherwise pretty up your name it means that your name is more important than the person who is reading it, and they may take offence. Fk of!

Do not use colours. That’s offensive. Now this I could agree with, but when I supplied an example I received a look of total surprise. My example: some West Indian cultures see the colour pink as an affront to their masculinity as pink equates homosexuality. Funnily enough, after all of that, no-one believed me.

Another innovation, sorry, idea, was that we should now write everything in a font called ‘Cosmic’, which isn’t even installed on my current machine. Why? Because it’ll appeal to children and younger readers more. Considering that the average age of the people reading my reports is around 45 I know that if I use a funky font I’ll be slapped in the head, metaphorically, sorry not a real hit. Or sumthin. Fuk, idk

We have to leave more ‘white space’ than we have text. Fully sik m8. I’m still trying to work that one out.

Some of the points were merely logical, sorry, they made sense. Be tactful was one. I can agree with that. I’m not about to send out an email saying that I can’t finish a particular job because one of the people I need to talk to is a right arsehole and needs his nuts nailed to the table in order for there to even be a faint hope for him to be present at pre-arranged meetings. I’d not even say it, but then again I do remember getting an email which was sent to an entire region that was so racist in tone that even I could see what was coming. The author of the email, not me BTW, was dragged before the big boss and reprimanded, sorry, told off, and instructed, sorry, told, to write an apology, sorry, told to say sorry, to the region. The poor thing’s apology was along the lines of, “I sent an email, sorry if you took offence.” Luckily for my co-worker they showed it to me first, I insisted, sorry, told, that they not send it as it’d make things worse and I drafted an acceptable, sorry, good, apology, sorry, sorry, letter, sorry, note, which we duly sent out. All was good with the world and my team leader was happy that I’d rendered assistance, sorry, helped, even if it was left unsaid.

There was much more but I’d walked out by then. Those of us who use proper English in both our writing and speaking are dinosaurs, sorry, old. The language is changing in ways that a lot of people can’t understand, nor keep up with. Oddly enough I have no real issue with that. When you study text from say Shakespeares era, sorry, borin old fukr, it’s almost unreadable now. Ponder this. Here we have the famous scene from Romeo and Juliet; first in it’s original text and then as it would appear now.

(original)
ROMEO
He ieasts at Scarres that neuer felt a wound,
(JULIET enters on the balcony)
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Iuliet is the Sunne,
Arise faire Sun and kill the enuious Moone,
Who is already sicke and pale with griefe,
That thou her Maid art far more faire then she:
Be not her Maid since she is enuious,
Her Vestal liuery is but sicke and greene,
And none but fooles do weare it, cast it off:
It is my Lady, O it is my Loue, O that she knew she were,
She speakes, yet she sayes nothing, what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answere it:
I am too bold 'tis not to me she speakes:
Two of the fairest starres in all the Heauen,
Hauing some businesse do entreat her eyes,
To twinckle in their Spheres till they returne.

What if her eyes were there, they in her head,
The brightnesse of her cheeke would shame those starres,
As day-light doth a Lampe, her eye in heauen,
Would through the ayrie Region streame so bright,
That Birds would sing, and thinke it were not night:
See how she leanes her cheeke vpon her hand.
O that I were a Gloue vpon that hand,
That I might touch that cheeke

JULIET
Ay me!

(modern)
ROMEO
It’s easy for someone to joke about scars if they’ve never been cut.
(JULIET enters on the balcony)
But wait, what’s that light in the window over there? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Rise up, beautiful sun, and kill the jealous moon. The moon is already sick and pale with grief because you, Juliet, her maid, are more beautiful than she. Don’t be her maid, because she is jealous. Virginity makes her look sick and green. Only fools hold on to their virginity. Let it go. Oh, there’s my lady! Oh, it is my love. Oh, I wish she knew how much I love her. She’s talking, but she’s not saying anything. So what? Her eyes are saying something. I will answer them. I am too bold. She’s not talking to me. Two of the brightest stars in the whole sky had to go away on business, and they’re asking her eyes to twinkle in their places until they return. What if her eyes were in the sky and the stars were in her head?—The brightness of her cheeks would outshine the stars the way the sun outshines a lamp. If her eyes were in the night sky, they would shine so brightly through space that birds would start singing, thinking her light was the light of day. Look how she leans her hand on her cheek. Oh, I wish I was the glove on that hand so that I could touch that cheek

JULIET
Fuck me!

English, in its traditional form, is almost a totally different language to what we speak today; hence early texts have been ‘updated and translated’ into the modern era. The shame lies in the removal of certain words – Byron and Shelly’s poetry is wondrous to read in its original form as the words form a certain cadence that’s often missing in modern tracts. I love reading the original version of Byron’s She Walks In Beauty, a poem that Byron wrote in the company of Percy Shelly and after he, Byron, had left his wife and England forever:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

I love that poem so much that I referred to it when I wrote my wedding vows; sadly no-one picked up on it at the time, but the alternative, quoting from Brian Setzer…
Look at me once, look at me twice,
Look at me again and there’s gonna be a fight!
…just wasn’t going to happen, although it might have made for a more interesting day. Perhaps I’ll slip it in when we renew our vows on our 10th anniversary. Why didn’t people notice? Well, frankly, nobody reads Byron anymore, and frankly I’m about the only one left who reads that stuff for enjoyment these days. Oh, while I’m digressing, just for shits and giggles, I also quoted Robert Browning on that day too. “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” – that wasn’t mine. The rest was though. But I did name check Browning…but back to where I was.

The English language is evolving. In another hundred years text like this will be as alien to the readers as text is to us from the late 1800s and early 1900s. If you don’t believe me then spend an hour or so in the local library and read old newspapers, you’ll soon get the gist of things. I may not embrace the changes as they often don’t make much sense, but I will do my best to adapt. Having said that there are a few things that I refuse to do, and foremost amongst them is to dumb down what I write because it might be read by an idiot in charge with ADD. I’ll adapt to the change, but in my own way, and may I perish before the removal of some words from the language proper, but then a language never fully dies if there’s a record of it, and there’ll always be a record of what we said and how we said it after we’re all long gone.

Allow me to close out with some more Browning. This wasn’t written about the English language, but it’s as fitting an epitaph as I can think of, and one that I’d not mind adapted and placed on my own monkey stone: “How sad and bad and mad it was - / But then, how it was sweet!”

TTFN, TC, GTFO

1 comment:

Brendan David Carson said...

I actually did lmao at some of this....