English as She is Spoke

Do you write letters to the newspaper bewailing the falling standards of English or, when you see such letters, do you shrug your shoulders and mutter “wodever”? Either way, here is a Christchurch Writers Festival event for you – English as She is Spoke which pairs Dr Elizabeth Gordon and Simon Winchester in what promises to be an event that is scintillating enough to render me speechless.

Elizabeth Gordon writes a regular column in The Press and her latest book Living Language: Exploring Kiwitalk tackles issues around language change in New Zealand. In other words, she writes really well about language. Simon Winchester on the other hand writes brilliantly using language and his The Professor and the Madman (aka The Surgeon of Crowthorne) is a must read for anyone interested in English.

I can’t say I am going to this event entirely without leanings. At times Gordon’s column has made me emit high-pitched keening noises whilst stabbing at the page with a blunt instrument. What is more, I have on occasion refused to stay in places which cannot correctly spell the word accommodation, recently joined a group called “there, their and they’re are not the same”  and feel heartbroken when some young people in libraries appear unable to articulate the simplest of requests.

That said, I will be in the queue for this event with an opinionated open mind (if there is such a thing), my mouth shut and my posture leaning to the side of the aisle on which Winchester sits. How about you?

PS – I am dedicating this blog to the patriarch of the Festival Team, Richard Liddicoat who for some time now has suspected that I am incapable of writing a blog of under 300 words. This one comes to exactly 299 Richard. Do I get a chocolate fish?

9 thoughts on “English as She is Spoke

  1. richard 3 September 2010 / 1:26 pm

    No. You get two! One for copy under 300 words; another for setting that as a goal. You got a bonus fish for your description of reading Elizabeth’s Gordon’s column. If she can affect you like that, she’s doing her job brilliantly. Unfortunately I have to deduct that fish for use of the word patriarch. May you never stop learning 🙂
    (Note to correspondents: Actual fish may vary)

    • Roberta Smith 3 September 2010 / 2:03 pm

      Actually, Patriarch was the pick of the bunch of possibilities. I’m too scared of losing my remaining fish to reveal more than that!

  2. e 3 September 2010 / 1:49 pm

    um, i count 301 words…

    • richard 3 September 2010 / 2:45 pm

      Actual fish may still be swimming, in that case!

    • roberta smith 3 September 2010 / 3:04 pm

      You counted! Give this person a chocolate fish! The wordcount said 299, maybe Richard sneaked in two extra words?????????

  3. Valerie Livingstone 3 September 2010 / 3:48 pm

    I once worked with someone who always said “goes” instead of “says” and “went” instead of “said”. It drove me nuts so goes off at her and went “STOP SAYING THAT”. Then I go “That’s it I’m moving to NZ where they don’t go went!”

    • robertafsmith 3 September 2010 / 4:42 pm

      Valerie, now I don’t know if I am wenting or going.

  4. Allison 3 September 2010 / 7:32 pm

    Now this is a session I would absolutely love to attend! And how I would love to add Saffrican English to the debate: I’m relying on you here Roberta.
    On the subject of keeping an open mind: have you seen the Tim Minchin video on YouTube entitled ‘If you open your mind too far your brain will fall out’?
    Have to say this festival sounds so fabulous I’m currently pricing air tickets!

    • robertafsmith 3 September 2010 / 7:49 pm

      Ah Allison – if only! It is a terrific line-up. Simon Winchester – be still my beating heart!

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