Poor Fellow my Country

Or, my allegience to a hopeless cause.

Right from the start I want to acknowledge that language is a living, changing thing. I know that. There are no permanent rules. I know it – at least I know it in my head.
My heart, however, is a different beast. It rages and fumes when I see my particular brand of English under attack. After all, language does matter. It defines us. It embodies our history and our place in the world. Some even say that it shapes the way we think. If that is true, then my despair deepens as I write this.

I have had many opportunities over the years to note how the language I learned as a child has changed and continues to change. I wonder sometimes how my grandparents would react if they were around to see how much everyday language has changed even in the last twenty years.

I am an Australian. For me an “asshole” is and always will be an arsehole. I sit on an arse; not an ass. An ass brays and snorts and doesn’t like being sat on one little bit. My arse is used to it as I sit on it lots of times most days. (Sorry if that conjures unseemly images).

“Moms” are turning up everywhere. I am used to calling my mother “mum”. I don’t think I will ever be able to call her mom, no matter how much I try. I’ll hold out to the last on this one. I will never surrender.

Now that I am on a roll (not sure that is still an acceptable expression, but maybe it is), we used to have bushfires every summer in Australia. We do not have them anymore. They are now “wildfires”. Cyclones used to be a feature of summer weather in tropical Australua. Now I am beginning to hear the term “hurricane” used instead.

I could go on, and I will.

Blokes have become “guys”. Lifesavers used to patrol Australian beaches and make sure swimmers were safe. We now have “lifeguards”. Ambulance officers responded to medical emergencies, whereas now we have “paramedics”. Hospitals had Casualty departments. Now they have “Emergency” Departments. Doctors trained to be specialists. Now they train to be “consultants”.

School principals used to be Head teachers. Students used to go to university. Now, increasingly, they go to “College”. Sandshoes have somehow become “sneakers”. Students now “graduate” from school as opposed to finishing.

We do not have politicians anymore (and maybe that is a good thing). We have “lawmakers” (ugh!).

We no longer have gaols (ok, that really dates me: . . . jails). We have “correctional facilities”.

I guess not all is yet lost. We don’t yet have “gas” filling stations in this country. They remain petrol stations, for now at least.

Lest you think I am fixated on the creeping influence of American culture on Australia, I will finish with one example of what I think is an example of our very own vandalism of language:

Why are so many people now inserting an apostrophe before an “s” to make a plural? Have I missed something? Why does one cat and another cat make two “cat’s”? What do the two cats own? Inserting an apostrophe before the “s” means the noun owns something. It doesn’t mean there are two or more of them. How hard can it be to understand that? I know, I know. It probably doesn’t matter enough for me to get agitated about it. I guess. . . . Maybe.
The clenching I feel in my guts whenever I read someone using an apostrophe to make a plural is probably something I will grow out of: When I learn to lighten up.

There! That feels better.
Rant officially over. I feel a bit like a shag on a rock on an incoming tide.

Thanks for reading you guys! I intend no offence. I’d better chill and call my Mom now and ask how her visit to the clinician went.


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