The Oddities Of The English Language

For those who love reading, books and the history and exploration of the English language, the British Library is preparing a scrumptious treat. They’re hosting ‘Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices', a free exhibition which is presently running and will be open until April 3rd, 2011.

The event will investigate the diversity of the English tongue and compare classic books with modern text messages and language used in social media. It will explore the cultural and historical richness and International diversity which makes English what it is today. Around the globe, millions of us speak a dialect of English, even though we may not all be able to understand each other.

Years ago, when we lived in Ireland I visited some Nigerian women I was helping with their garden. They were chatting away with each other in a language I assumed was Yoruba or something else. I thought it was a bit rude of them to talk to each other and not include me (after I’d done them a favour, clearing up their garden and helping them plant out some bedding plants). After about 10 minutes I asked what the language was and they told me it was English. They were actually surprised I couldn’t understand a word of it.

I think this adds to the beauty of our language. There’s no other tongue – so versatile and adaptable! This exhibition allows you to record your own voice for the collection. Perhaps like the two Nigerian women, in 100 years future generations will find you difficult to understand.  Consider the language of today’s teenager and you will see this is not so far-fetched.

Go to the link to record your voice. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live. (http://www.bl.uk/evolvingenglish/maplisten.html)

Visitors to this one-time exhibition will be able to see the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf, Shakespeare ‘quartos’, the King James Bible, and Dr Johnson’s dictionary. Recordings of famous speeches by Churchill, Ghandi and Mandela will also be on show. In addition, the public will be able to sample early examples of advertising posters, newspapers from around the world, comics, dialect recordings, web pages and much more.

Go here to get involved and take the quiz. It’s fun. Test your knowledge of the origins evolutions and oddities of the English Language. I got full marks, but that’s only because I took the easy level. :-)  http://www.bl.uk/evolvingenglish/quiz.html

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Judy Sheldon-Walker February 5, 2011 at 2:40 AM  

I find the English language absolutely fascinating. I sent a friend XXXs and OOOs like this OX OX OX, and they asked me why I sent them cows?!! This may not be exactly what you are referring to, but it is a form of communication that may make perfect sense to one and be completely lost on the other. :-)

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Icy BC February 6, 2011 at 12:21 PM  

I lived in New Orleans for a few years, and the dialect there is so different that I couldn't understand at first, especially when they talk fast!

Self Sagacity February 6, 2011 at 5:51 PM  

that's interesting about the event and the quiz sounds like fun. I will check it out.

Anne's a published author, freelance writer and experienced editor. She's just signed her second publishing contract this year with 2 separate publishing houses. You can hire her or see her available books in the side panel on the right.
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