22 August 2012

Standard Australian English

I like words.

I spent five years studying linguistics, and I still get a kick out of the way humans can use language to impart so many different shades of meaning. And, at the risk of sounding like a crazy old man (indeed, I increasingly am one) it makes me mad when I see linguistic expression being squashed to make way what is supposed to be easier communication.

I’m always being asked to simplify my language use at work. A lot of the time it’s because the people I’m writing for have low literacy level, or a non-English speaking background, or both, and that’s fair enough. But this week I co-wrote an article for publication in the NT Law Society bimonthly magazine. My boss sent it back to me for editing because apparently I was using technical language that wouldn’t be accessible to the readers.

Language too complicated for lawyers?

The thing is I wouldn’t have said I use particularly complicated English. The odd sentence does get away from me every now and then. But seriously, we’re talking about a profession that produced the following:

For the purpose of smooth transmission of legal cultures and legal thoughts and avoiding unnecessary misunderstanding and cultural conflicts, it is of great importance for us to carefully study the textual structures of laws and especially accurately comprehend the long sentences in the English legal texts, based on which this article attempts to take linguistic characteristics of legal English as the starting point to explore the features of legal translation, especially the difficulties in translating long sentences.

And speaking of legal English, for some reason I’ve started watching Boston Legal again. Last time I got stuck in this series, I started producing language that really was incomprehensible. I’ve managed to avoid that this time around, and instead I’ve started giving some thought to what will happen to me when I do finally cross that hazy line between ‘delightfully eccentric’ and ‘bat-crap crazy’. It’s often assumed that I’ll wander around like Denny Crane, spouting right-wing nonsense and shooting people. But I think, in the end, I’ll end up more like Alan Shore, stalking the halls with all the appearance of a man in control, all the while gradually becoming more and more unstable and yet more and more unstoppable at the same time.

In fact there’s some circumstantial evidence to suggest I may have crossed that line last week some time.

Anyway, I’m sure it’s all perfectly safe. Next weekend Doctor Who comes back. That will be just the balancing influence of sanity I need to get me centred again. I can go back to being a mad man with a box. Without a box.

Alternatively, I could do something other than watching television. But I still have two episodes of Burn Notice waiting for me.

What was I on about again?

Oh yeah: Standard Australian English.

I speak it, bitches. Make of that what… hey look! An anti-cancer themed plush volley ball!




Garry with 2 Rs
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