Just to get you in the Christmas mood …

Written on:June 9, 2014
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I took a break from tutoring students on our NCTJ journalism courses and went to a carol service last Christmas.

I was merrily singing along to Good King Wenceslas when something struck me.

What on earth did the words mean?

Statements like this, for example:

Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling …

Or this:

When we bear him thither

Who? What?

I read the words of some other carols, and many were just the same. Completely unintelligible. And, it made me realise how much the English language has changed over the years.

My proofreading course students often say to me: ‘I corrected this copy because it wasn’t written in the Queen’s English.’

And, I explain that the only person who speaks the Queen’s English is the Queen unless, or course, you say things like ‘I’m just orf to the shops’!

Our copywriting course students will tell you that writers are now trained to write using the language the reader understands, even if it breaks all the rules of grammar.

Many say that’s a bad thing – that it devalues the English language.

I’m not so sure about that. Christmas carols show that English has always evolved with society, and always will.

And, if the revised version of Silent Night becomes: ‘Silent nite holy nite’, maybe it’s not a bad thing. It’s just our language changing with the times.

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By the way, if you want to find out what the words to Good King Wenceslas really mean, visit this site

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