Our changing language. Boris Johnson declares that the end of remaining pandemic rules scheduled for August 16 is “nailed on.” Ah, but is it also baked in? Or does something get baked in first, and then nailed on? Or the other way round?
Our language gets ever more complicated, especially in human relationships when some folk go gaslighting, ghosting, biting, breadcrumbing and benching. But as words get new meanings, at least we may all soon be speaking in the same accent, as predicted by Dr Tamsin Blaxter, a Cambridge University linguist.
In truth, this process has been going on for years. Ages ago, when everything was in black and white and we all thought Wilfred Pickles was a scream, I was about eight and on holiday at my gran's home in a Yorkshire mill village. One morning a bunch of my local mates turned up at the door. The leader greeted me: “Aye-oop, Pete, arta lakin' wi' us in t'ginnel?”
My grandmother was part of a generation that used “yonder” and “nobbut” in everyday speech and referred to the previous autumn as “last back-end.” As my mates dithered on the doorstep, Gran translated: “They want to know if you're going out to play with them in the alley.”
While linguists trace the rise of the glottal stop with mathematical precision or ponder the persistence of the North Country flat A, entire dialects have been vanishing. No-one lakes in t'ginnels any moower.
Reflections on the Olympics? For me, the most unexpectedly impressive sport was the BMX cycling. Was I the only one expecting them to take off and fly with ET? Strangest event must be dressage where people get medals for engaging reverse gear on a horse. The contrast between the old Olympics (posh, elegant, classical) and the new (working-class, T-shirts, inner-city) has never been so acute.
Latin is to be introduced at 40 state secondary schools, in the hope of demolishing its reputation as an elitist subject. Take it from me, the problem with Latin is not that it's elitist but that it's hard. You can waffle in English, fudge in social studies and bluff your way through the sort of history exam that asks you to imagine a day as a slave. But Latin is precise, demanding, unforgiving. It requires real teaching and real study. Which is why, after two years of gerunds, datives and ablatives, I packed it in, and have been waffling ever since.