You might not think it, but even things associated with the seemingly monolithic structure that is academia are subject to change. For example, I’ve recently been writing an essay on the twentieth century transformation of the nature of historical sources and the ways in which they can be used; a series of changes which have had a profound impact on the subject and are still ongoing.
And it’s not just the language we use to describe such cultural concepts that is transforming. The language we use on a day-to-day basis is changing and mutating too. While reading an article on the necessity (or otherwise) of some traditional grammar rules on The Independent’s website, I came across this quote from the journalist and author Oliver Kamm:
The English language is not static, nor are its boundaries clear. Nor is it a language tied to the British Isles. English is a river. Its content is always changing and it has many tributaries. Its characteristics include impermanence. Indeed, there can be no single definition of the English language.
Historians frequently go on about their beloved concepts of continuity and change – indeed, the one, ever continuing, fundamentally important aspect of British culture, landscape and language that tends to be overlooked or even sometimes sneered at is its non-static nature. Kamm’s words bring this innate movement and flexibility into sharp relief, reflecting the ever-changing nature of the English language.
Every generation brings new words, new phrases, new ways of using the language to the table, and this has been going on for centuries – just look, for instance, at the enormous impact of William Shakespeare’s creative vocabulary, or the beautifully influential language used by the original editors of the King James Bible. These innovations may take some time to work their way into common usage, but English is a compulsively, inherently magpie language that pinches things from a huge variety of cultures and dialects worldwide; absorbing them into a new and textured whole.
In March last year, I wrote about the impending cuts to our library services and why it’s just so important to save these vital community resources from closure and ‘rationalisation’. Recently, I was interested to note that the Public Libraries News had put together a list of library closures – and of those libraries still under threat from government policy.
[W]e are seeing a reduction in opening hours, book stock spending and staff in many library services. Local communities, families and individuals are more than ever facing a postcode lottery when it comes to the quality of library services they can expect to receive.
And good quality library services are a crucial aspect of any healthy community. I’m a regular user of my local library – and not just in order to borrow books, although I do that frequently. The libraries in my local area also offer everything from local history services and access to education information, newspapers and the internet, to storytime sessions for the little ones and book groups, family history tutorials and craft workshops for the grown ups.
Britain doesn’t have much in the way of a progressive mainstream media, and part of what little we do have is currently under threat. Russian businessman and current owner of the rather unpleasant London Evening Standard, Alexander Lebedev is currently in talks to buy out The Independent, which has been struggling financially for a while now.
And as if that wasn’t worrying enough, it seems that Lebedev plans to replace the Indy’s current editor Roger Alton (whose style, admittedly, hasn’t been particularly popular with many readers) with the controversial ex-editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, Rod Liddle.
If you’ve never encountered Liddle, count yourself lucky; he’s not the most pleasant of people – and he would be, in my view (and that of many others) just about the worst possible choice to edit the Indy, which is well-known for its progressive stance on many controversial issues.
Why? Well, there’s the racism for a start – and, despite the fact he seems to think he’s being clever and witty, this is racism of the most ignorant, lazy kind (as evidenced here and here). Either he really doesn’t get how offensive he’s being, or he’s attempting to be controversial for the sake of being controversial, which isn’t particularly clever, witty or grown-up either.