Saturday, October 16, 2004

English as she should be spoke?

I've just read a news item reporting Prime Minister Tony Blair as having said that he would crack down on people "languishing on benefits" - quote But that will mean we have to spend less, particularly on areas where there are people who could work but who presently languish on benefits unquote.

Now, I'm not concerned with why he's cracking down on welfare, or the political atmosphere in this country. I'm just amazed that he actually said the words "languishing on benefits". Does he mean that people who are getting benefits are still going downhill, getting feebler or wasting away? I dont think so. I'm pretty sure what he meant was that the people on benefits are thriving - not languishing - on the hard work of others.

The word languish does not mean "to laze", and I've never heard or seen it used in that context, not even in slang or idiom. (If anybody has, please dont hesitate to let me know, and I'll stand corrected.)

Look at the official dictionary and thesaurus definitions of the word "languish":

1. languish v.
grow weak or feeble. • archaic pine with love or grief.
(From The Concise Oxford English Dictionary)

2. languish verb
the plants languished and died, weaken, deteriorate, decline; wither, droop, wilt, fade, waste away; informal go downhill.
(From The Oxford Paperback Thesaurus)
copyright Oxford University Press 2004

As far as I can see, according to those definitions, people cant "languish" in luxury - not unless they're lovesick or otherwise ill. I dont think Mr Blair meant that about the many people who are living as parasites off the welfare system and not doing a lick of work.

Just shows, doesnt it, the standard of the English language in the country of its birth! (I wont even begin to mention the clangers that President Bush has dropped - there are enough examples floating around on the Internet. But perhaps Bush can be excused on the grounds that not only is he an American, he's from Texas - y'all agree?).

I suppose we should really start looking to countries such as India for pointers on how to read and write correct English... after all, we're still pretty much a faithful reflection of British English as it used to be even 50 years ago!


3 comments:

None said...

shyam,
dunno if u've heard this one b4:

Churchill once used the word `Triphibian' to describe the three-pronged nature of the Allied attacks during the Second World War.
V.S. Srinivasa Sastri though it fit to correct his English, pointing out that the word should be Tribian, because 'amphi' stood for two and 'tri' for three.
Aparrently Churchill wrote back saying, never mind what is right. What the English speak is English! :)

cheers!

Pavithra said...

'None' is right, I suppose. Or rather, Churchill. After all, it's their language. Still, its agonizing when you *know* it ought to corrected. Gah.

gudlak said...

Shyam,

Too true!! NZ English is equally shocking, although English is the native language for many here. The written English, by the way, is even worse!!