Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Debasing a legend

I don't generally admit to watching such things on TV but my son must have had it on: I'm talking about I'm a celebrity - get me out of here. It is engaging in an odd sort of way... fascinating watching people not really coping in what they see as an alien environment, while I sit wondering why on earth they would voluntarily put themselves in situations they must know they'll hate. But then again, we should salute them really - since facing the fear has got to be good for you: giving you resources for later. Giving you courage for future travails.

What I quickly took exception to yesterday, though, was the attribution of one celeb. He was labelled the "legendary darts player".

Well I'm sorry - and no offence to the man concerned, who I'm sure is very nice and highly skilled in his field - but how can a darts player be a legend? How can a footballer, when it comes to it? Surely a legend is someone who has really faced adversity - and risked all or even died in the attempt. Like Amelia Earhart or Malloy and Ervine??

Please ITV don't debase the English language like this. Keep at least some overblown language for the real heroes. And let's celebrate the astonishing wealth of English, which makes it so easy to avoid repetition. We've sooo many words, and it is great to be able to dip in and discover more.

The richness and scope of English really came home to me when I was living in Indonesia, trying to learn the rudiments of the national language. The first thing to surprise me was that the English to Bahasa Indonesia section of my dictionary was about twice the size of the Indonesian to English section. Why? Because there were simply no words for concepts we English-speakers deem important. There is no Indonesian word for vegetarian, for example, or for brown. If an Indonesian wants to refer to something that is brown they will either say 'red' or 'the colour of chocolate', or rather just 'chocolate'. This got me into culinary confusions. When I'm overseas long-term, I have a thing about baking my own wholemeal bread if I can't buy it. Consequently, when shopping for brown flour in Jakarta, Ujung Pandang and Mataram, I bought an interesting array of brown powers. I bought chocolate power, bread crumbs, gravy browning (or at least that's what it smelled like) as well as a few packets of very good wholemeal wheat flour.

So use the diverse language we have at our command. Let's keep words like legendary for people who have really earned such adulation, and strive to search for other lesser known words to discombobulate the illiterate and the uneducated.

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