Thursday, 25 April 2013

Linguistic conundrums and old age.

Today in my Italian class we discussed the subjunctive, or the “congiuntivo” as they call it there, making it sound like a linguistic eye disease. Apparently there is quite a deal of discussion going on in Italy about whether it’s really needed any longer. It’s a little like the arguments for and against keeping the apostrophe in English. Personally I’m all for keeping both of them. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of clarity and sophistication in the language, any language. I have moments of despair about the reduction of the vocabulary, especially in English, to a simple, basic minimum. As people read less, for a variety of reasons, words slip out of usage. At the same time weird new terms are invented; politicians in particular no longer talk about what will happen “in the future” but make predictions “going forward”. Here’s a link to an article in the Guardian on that topic. 

Our Italian teacher puts the endangered state of the subjunctive down to lazy speaking, some by politicians who shall remain nameless but who don’t know how or can’t be bothered to speak properly. She had a little rant as well about the fact that anyone at all can call themselves a journalist; all they need to do is write a little article, however poorly constructed, have it published in some newspaper and they call themselves journalists. Oh dear, I wonder what she thinks of bloggers! 

Prospect Magazine has published a list of the top world thinkers. Here’s a link to the list. I know about this because a female journalist in the Guardian was getting a little upset at the fact that out of the top 65 only 15 are women. Yes, it’s disgraceful but it no doubt reflects the fact that men still hold the majority of the top positions in just about all walks of life and so are more likely to have made their thoughts more publicly available. 

I’ve just heard that Margaret Thatcher’s funeral cost over £3,000,000. A good deal of that was police presence on the streets but a fair amount went on receptions after the event. Whatever the truth of the matter, it seems an awful lot of money to see someone off to the next world. Funnily enough, I was talking about this to an old gentleman on the bus this morning. His funeral, he told me, is already paid for. It was a cheerful topic of conversation for a Thursday morning bus ride. 

I know this old chap because we used to live next door to his sister-in-law, about 25 years ago. At that time he seemed ancient; today he really doesn’t look much older. How can that be? Maybe it’s to do with older people being around more and being more active than in the past. Or maybe it’s just that he refuses to dress any differently from the way he did 25 years ago. 

Anyway, he’s not letting age stand in his way or so it seems. And neither is the President of Italy, starting a second term at age 89, their oldest President ever! I wonder if he’ll manage a third term.

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