Sunday, 20 January 2013

'Schedule? What fricking schedule?' the monks used to say in the scriptorium at Lindisfarne. But in the 21st century it's not good enough to say 'it'll be ready in God's good time', so here's something to be going on with:
  • April 2013 Version 2, incorporating EA-EU
  • June Version 2.1, incorporating a number (TBC) of pairs beginning with I
  • July Version 3, incorporating IA-IU
  • September Version 4, incorporating OA-OU
  • October Version 5, incorporating all vowel pairs
This is aspirational - all back-of-an-envelope stuff at the moment, but
...a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?
as wossname said, poet chappie. Got it. Browning. And note that in this poem the second line includes the expression 'bear with me', which doesn't mean 'Excuse me while I go to the stockroom [my most recent exposure to this trope, at time of writing, must have been at a shoe-shop] and laugh at the very idea of stocking that size' - or anything like it.

Tale from the word-front

On my journey through the -EA-s (and this should be the last time I mention this pair of letters (or 'digraph' as we say in the trade) - I've just met the word 'upspeak'. Hitherto in my sporadic brushes with academe I've known it as 'HRT' - not that ladies of a certain age get a new lease of life and start talking like Australians; 'HRT', in this context is 'high-rise terminal'. The person who thought up that abbreviation must have been either totally humourless or they were a member of the pee po belly bum drawers school of ironists, and thought it would be funny to get other academics to say 'HRT'.

Upspeak is the tendency to raise the tone of a statement in a way that makes it sound - to baby-boomers like me - like a question. When I first became aware of this trait, I interpeted it as an admirable token of diffidence; the implied background mood-music was 'I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this; do you understand what I'm trying to say?' (I suspect something like that may have been involved in its inception. I first heard it in 1971, coming from a fellow student (or what was called, in the colourful local argot, a 'gentleman in statu pupillari') who had recently returned from some time volunteering [the 'year out' hadn't yet been invented] in a US summer camp. And he had acquired the US trait of strenuous openness to the expression of others' opinions.)

But the flood-gates really opened when Australian soaps became a staple of late-afternoon/early-evening TV in the UK. (Which suggests to my butterfly mind a possible future post on the influence of soaps on Br English.... But The Schedule may delay that, as it will quite probably reduce the frequency of these posts.) 

Returning to the topic of upspeak... Of my two children, my first managed to avoid it as he was sensitive to my pained expression when he lapsed into the intonation of his peers. But his sister is a confirmed upspeaker. As with the sentence-initial 'Hopefully'...', I'm afraid this foreign import will be adopted into standard English (whatever that is) later this century. But over my dead body (which, later this century, won't be an insurmountable obstacle!)

Update 2013.01.21: A few tweaks.

Update: 2017.02.19.16:05 

– A few format tweaks, removed old footer, and added explanatory parenthesis in blue.

Update: 2019.04.08.12:05 – Fixed broken link

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