LETTER: Split your infinitives but try some new words

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The Independent Online
AS A COPYWRITER, I see language from a different point of view to or from that of Jean Aitchison and David Crystal ("Slip of the mother tongue", 11 February). The problem is not so much one of the English language being corrupted as of it being impoverished.

I am limited by most customers to two puny, unrepresentative sections of our vocabulary. One is that deemed to be used by the man in the street and consists of words of three syllables at most. The other is an excluding vocabulary used by unintelligible and insecure executives, consisting of abstract nouns of Latin origin, whose aim seems to be to impress rather than communicate.

Occasionally, the temptation to "push and envelope" is too great. Recently I have used the words "bailiwick" (with section A) and "arcane" (with section B). Only the second survived into the final product.

The problem with both words was that readers did not understand them. Is this a reason not to use a word? In context, their meanings could easily be deduced, and how else do peopleextend their vocabulary but by deducing the meaning of a word from its context?

A language has to change, I agree. Even I, an erstwhile pedant, now happily split infinitives. And I confidently begin a sentence with a conjunction. But I do grieve to see the daily shrinkage of synonyms and subtle shades of meaning.

Sue Merriman

Northampton

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