I just heard a tape I had made of a program where Robert McCrum was talking about English. His treatment of the effect of the various invasions on English repeated some canards. It’s just sad that these books come out b/c some publisher thinks there is a “market” for it. Does anyone exercise restraint?
There are any number of accessible books on language, linguistics, and English out there. Why is it our media outlets, even intelligent ones like NPR, insist on covering shallow generalizations as if they represent the latest in scholarship?
I’m peeved about this b/c I constantly fight the battle against treating English in a humorous way with an underlying seriousness about canards like ’no one speaks good English anymore’, ’kids nowadays don’t learn their grammar’, ’there’s only one right way to speak English and it ain’t us what talks it’, ’only the English speak real English’, ’English teachers know what correct English is’, ’English was totally transformed by the French of 1066’ (McCrum’s contribution, including the totally insane distortion of saying the French imposed their way of life on everyone in England), and so on. I gave a good book on English, although not one that treats the language generally, to a math teacher in June and she is still working her way through it six months later. She admits it takes some concentration. Finally, someone willing to read something of substance by a real scholar.
It isn’t the technicalities of the book nor the difficult vocabulary that slows the math teacher down, b/c the author is a very good writer and knows his public – educated American adults. It’s b/c the book introduces concepts so alien to the American school-trained mind. Overcoming obstacles placed in the way of thinking by the educational process is all too familiar to those of us who have delved deeply into a subject.
Right now I’m watching Ken Robbins on YouTube. Great stuff. Watch and listen.