'Gateshead? Prune? Come in, yer tea's ready' MARGARET DUDDIN finds that pleas to treasure and protect our language are going unheeded.
HAt'S in a name? WLots. At birth we are given the name of our sire, our surname, the family name our identity badge, passed down through generations. We can connect with others of the same name, a sort of tribal instinct. We recognise names that suggest family routes, eg Irish, Scottish.
Most of us are quite content with one surname but have you noticed the increase in double barrelled names of late? Is there some signifi-cance in having two rather than one surname. Should we all, perhaps, have two surnames? What other name would we choose? I'd be inclined to go from the sublime to the ridiculous and choose Windsor-Chardonnay.
Parents choose our Christian name which were historically the names of saints. Strange Christian names are now given to children ie place names, or pieces of fruit. It seems that "celebs" are in a contest to bestow the most unusual titles to their offspring. I am waiting for little Wallsends, Gatesheads, Prunes and Bananas to appear.
I love words and delight in their use. A sentence in a book can make me gasp and consider the beauty of language. It happens often. I still recall the beautiful images created from lines of poetry "behold her single in the field" "there was once a path through the woods", loneliness, romance, mystery are all there in a few simple words. Pure magic.
We must treasure and protect our language if we are not all to be reduced to text speak. For some reason I am seeing examples of its misuse all around me.
It started with Toys R Us, now we have signs inviting us INTU Eldon Square, whose latest development is the QUBE. A sign advertising private tuition invites children to KUM-ON.
Will any parent joint the queue to enrol their children for extra English tuition at a place like this? Probably yes, it will be considered quirky and catchy but spare a thought for the teachers who have to counteract these mistakes.
I wonder how much money is spent to some upmarket PR company so that they can mutilate the Eng-lish language into words like QUBE and INTU.
At the other extreme language has been used in a most elegant fashion in advertising. A notice in my local newsagents invites applicants for the post of "Delivery Colleague" - ie paper boy. A beautiful phrase outside a village pub "Not segregation but congregation". So much more attractive than "Come and join us". I love these funny, flowery, soft-flowing messages where language is enhanced rather than mutilating.
Two words are currently in vogue and used to describe a variety of goods and services. One of them is a precise perfect little adjective - that is "pure." Look around you and you will see Pure Beauty, Pure Gym etc.
Well I can understand the description in the first instance but pure and gym? Gyms are places full of sweat and lycra how can they be described as pure? Perhaps it describes the activities? I am perplexed.
The second sadly abused adjective is "artisan". A beautiful old word for a workman which speaks to me of stonemasons building cathedrals. Now we are bombarded by artisan bakers, artisan bread. I have even been offered an artisan breakfast drink. Show me the person grinding the flour at the mill or treading the grapes and I'll believe the label.
Musing in a maze of vocabulary there are two words which make me cringe. The first of these is metro, a harsh unattractive group of letters - an abbreviation of metropolis. I recall, as a student, travelling on the Paris metro and wondering if we would ever have such a system and what it might be called. A tube? ... Underground? ..but no we copied the French in an appropriate way as it meant transport across the city.
Then we built a huge shopping centre away from the city and a name was needed. To this day I wonder if consultants brought in to suggest names or was it chosen by a committee in the civic centre with the collective imagination of a cotton wool ball? We waited, we speculated, would it be perhaps The Lanes? The Halls? And so on. No, it was named the Metrocentre even though it was purposely built far from the city centre.
Even our local radio station was victim to the "Metro" contagion.
What joy we felt when a huge arena was built on the banks of the Tyne. Would it be the Riverside Arena?.. The Collingwood?...The Butterfield? again no, it was named the Metro Radio Arena. Will someone please explain to me the connection between an underground railway system in Paris and a concert venue in Newcastle. I beseech those in power to please stop using this word.
The second word which makes me cringe even more is Wonga. Just as our city is gaining recognition for its beauty (New York Times) and for its amazing achievements in business, technology and the arts, thousands of people started wearing shirts with Wonga "clagged" (old Geordie word) on their chests.
Our team and supporters were advertising for a dubious load of villains making money out of the poor. Did they throw the money lenders out of the temple? No, they were invited into St James' Park and supported carried their slogan all over the country and beyond. What did that do for our image? I think greater support for the club would be shown by not wearing a Wonga shirt. Ask your granny to knit you a scarf.
PS. Memory lane, one of the loveliest buildings on Grey Street is being renovated. I hope they preserve its beautiful stained glass windows. It was Mawson, Swan & Morgan, a very special book shop. Children went there after Christmas with their book tokens, memorable treats. It was there we were taken to choose our first fountain pen. Mine was a mottled green Conway Stewart. It was a carpeted, gentile little temple to scholarship.
It is being reopened soon as a hamburger shop. I am out of words.
Are we just perhaps just a little too fond of our 'M' word?