Evolving English?

Here at This Little Lady Went to London, we are huge fans of the English Language.

It will surprise no-one to hear that some have a better grasp than others of course. Our incredible writer Angharad knows everything there is to know about grammar, as she is completing yet another degree at University (she’s greedy having more than one, I agree). On the other hand, English is MSalonen’s second language (after Finnish), but his grasp is far beyond anything I would expect and is truly impressive. Me? Well, I’m fair-to-middling at best.

However, whether we know exactly where to place a semi-colon or not, we all place a high value on the correct use of words. So one thing you will rarely (if ever) see us doing is writing in “text speak”. You know what I mean. You’ll have seen it everywhere – not just in text messages. Whether it be m8 (mate), GTR (got to run), 2MOR (tomorrow) or FML (f*ck my life), these abbreviations are all over the place these days.

The saddest thing is, for many teenagers, this type of shorthand has become the acceptable norm. In fact, many see it as an improvement. There have been tales of students writing answers to their GCSE exams in this abbreviated language. On school forums of even the best British schools, the conversation is almost illegible to the rest of us, as they discuss their weekends and opinions in a mixture of characters and numerals that look like nonsense to the untrained eye.

Surely though, we must consider that in some form or another, this language may continue to play a part in our future? Language always evolves. We no longer use many of the words or phrases that appear in Shakespeare’s texts and new words, that were until recently seen as slang now appear in our dictionary and are accepted as “normal” to those with even the most extended vocabulary. So it stands to reason that at some point, this new language will also become part of all our lives.

There is currently a free exhibition at the British Library with hundreds of exhibits on this fascinating subject. Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices runs until April 3 2011 and takes a close look at the roots of Old English to slang dictionaries of today. The history of our language and the way it continues to evolve are all on show.

Visitors to the show can also have their voice recorded and have it added to the British Library archive for further analysis in decades to come.

You can test your knowledge of the English language by taking part in this quiz below. It’s harder than it looks (I’m embarrassed to say I only got 4/6 on the easy level!) Please do feel free to share your scores with us, or tweet them using the hashtag #evolvingenglish, I’d be interested to know how everyone got on.

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