What your words say about you

What do you do in a recombobulation zone?   Do you ever suffer from affluenza? Have you ever taken a legsie?  Or is the whole lot just one big omnishambles?

The English language is ever-changing – t’was ever thus and t’will always be and with that change comes a rich seam of linguistic inventiveness.

And confusion.

Anne Curzan is a collector of slang words, a dissector of colloquialisms and a charter of language evolution. To put it most simply, she is a Professor of English at the University of Michigan who studies how the English language works and how it has changed over time. As she puts it in her talk, “The English language is rich, vibrant and filled with the creativity of the people who speak it.”

It is right to embrace new words but we should do so with caution and be wary of speaking in a manner that even native English speakers find bewildering.  There is a fine line between appearing contemporary and in-tune with the current vernacular and simply sounding strange.  Probably best, for example, for verbs to remain verbs and nouns to remain nouns  – do athletes really need to talk of their desire ‘to podium’? Is it acceptable to say to a client that you can ‘dashboard that’? Imagine what those must sound like to the non-native ear.

There are plenty of campaigns for plain English and many have their place.  This is not a call for a republican guard stand against the continuing growth and evolution of language but rather a plea to think carefully about what the words you use say about you.