Letter: English ain't broke, so why try to fix it?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Tony Fairman ('Learn them to speak proper, like', 9 July) is making rather heavy weather of a simple matter. Native speakers cannot systematically make 'mistakes' in their own languages since a language consists, in all its varieties, of whatever its native speakers regularly do when they speak it. Of course, at any particular time, some speakers will regard what other speakers do as 'wrong', but this is part of a larger encounter known as politics. Susan Elkin's case (9 July) that Latin helps with English should perhaps be seen in this light. Shakespeare famously knew very little of it, and it certainly didn't help him with his spelling. He couldn't even spell his own name. Worse, he was a complete stranger to the national curriculum and almost certainly hadn't read a word of Pope, Wordsworth or Dickens. My point is that English ain't broke. The interesting question is why, at this particular time, we're trying to fix it.

Yours sincerely,

TERENCE HAWKES

Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory

University of Wales

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