Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The Brexicon

Whether you parse my subject line as Br[itish]+ exit + lexicon or Br[itish] + exit + con[fidence trick] is a matter of personal conscience. I couldn't possibly comment (well, I could,  but as the whole sorry shambles reduces me to incoherent/impotent rage, my comments woudn't have much force either way).

On 25 March of 2018 The Westmnster Hour included an item that dealt with the language of Brexit "[f]rom Cakeism and Remainiacs, to Regulatory Alignment and Insufficient Progress" as the iPlayer blurb puts it. The programme as a whole is not available, but iPlayer's largesse makes up for this, by making available a "clip" of about 8 minutes.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly told us that Brexit means Brexit. But what do the words associated with Brexit mean? The Westminster Hour's John Beesley has been exploring the etymology of the Brexit lexicon. 

More here
Graeme Davis, Profeeor of Humanities at Buckingham University, gives the interviewer some basic pointers to start with. It all started with Grexit – which, as you may remember, referred to a putative exit of Greece from the Euro. Britain was never in the Euro, so Brixit [sic, with an i – an early form that didn't catch on] wasn't just about money.

Brexit spawned various spinoffs, includind Brexiter and Brexiteer. Dr Davis calls the first of these  "I suppose, relatively neutral" [hmmm – not sure what that "relatively" is doing; just – suppose  academic feigned diffidence] and the second "has quite a positive spin on it".  Again, hmmm; I think the direction of the spin depends on the attitude of the hearer. If you think Brexit is A Bad Thing, then Brexiteer has more of the negative spin of racketeer (one might link this word with capitalists with off-shore wealth profiteering from the chaos which is bound to... No Bob, don't go therre. Even words like privateer and buccaneer have spin that can be either positive or negative, depending on which end of the cutlass is involved. 

And the addition of the prefix arch- seems to me to impart renewed negativity. If I call Jacob Rees-Mogg an arch-Brexiteer, I don't think there's much risk of my being thought to  approve of his antiquarian antics. 
Excuse the gratuitous assonance; I can't hear a word without being tempted down playful back-alleys. At least I spared you the 'Jacob Real-Smug' gag...
No I didn't.
In the end, I didn't find the Westminster Hour clip very enlightening. But I did find the words of Kathleen O'Grady ("a journalist with a special interest in linguistics") interesting:
German is currently the most widely spoken native language  about 16% of the EU speaks German as a native language. But once you take into account people who speak various languages as a second language, English then quickly overtakes both German and French, and also Italian – which is quite widely spoken. So 38% of adults in Europe speak English as a second langage. If you compare that to the total of German speakers – both native and as a second language – that's only 27%.
And she goes on to refer to research that suggests the use of English may be boosted by Brexit:

After the UK leaves, most people speaking English in the EU ...
Most people? Perhaps she has some Astérix-like vision of a redoubt of hardy native speakers of English among all the second-language speakers – perhaps led by Nicola Sturgeon in the Astérix role, with Alex Salmond playing Obélix...
will be on the same footing. If everybody's on the same footing, everybody's speaking it as a second language, people might be more happy to use it.
This is strangely reminiscent to me of David Crystal's work in Original Pronunciation (OP)  and his observation that OP gives non-UK actors ownership of the text. I heard this at a British Council talk a few years ago., but the same point is made by David Crystal's son Ben:
The accent draws him [HD: the actor using OP] more out of the head of the standard accent and into the heart. This, he believes, brings “an ownership over Shakespeare that is rare,” both for the actor and the audience. Americans, he notes, have sometimes told him that they feel like Shakespeare isn’t theirs because “we can’t do your accent,” but that many of the vowel sounds in O.P. may in fact be more accessible naturally to Americans than to modern Brits.

More here
So Globish will go sailing off pluckily into the unknown, leaving us speakers of RP clinging to the wreckage.

But this isn't getting the lawn patched. Bye for now

PS: A couple of clues:
  • Hostile response to insult, with intervention of mountain bike in reverse; formidable. (11)
  • Men and girl conspiring to put a spanner in the works (7)
Update: 2018.07.12.09:30 – Shame-faced typo-fixes (involving acute accents).

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