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December 10, 2007 / Amy Bradney-George

The Dieing Language

Over the weekend I like to read newspapers. I perused three between Saturday and Sunday of the weekend just passed. And I was disappointed by the (mis)use of language I found.

People saying “a historic shift”, when “an” is the correct word, changing tense halfway through, as in “the journalist was sitting at his desk when he used the wrong word, but it would be weeks before he realises the mistake” and simply using the wrong words or misspelling things. It may seem petty to you, but many people read newspapers and, as published writers, journalists have a responsibility to check their spelling and grammar. They should, in theory, set a good example for us all.

That is, of course, unless we want to forget the joys of good grammar and spelling. We could all start writing about how it is hard labor to write good and that it is a specialized skill these days. “U dont need good word skills to talk or right”, we might say. And some will agree with that, but I do not.

Simple mistakes are ok, everyone makes them. I constantly have to go through everything I write to check for mistyped words, poor grammar or bad syntax. But I do actually check, and I think that’s part of the problem.

The Australian Labor (note the lack of a “u”) Party is apparently called so because it was, for a while, run by an American who wrote with American spelling (and rightly so for him). Someone, somewhere, saw “Labor” written by this American and thought “Oh, so that’s how the party writes it to differentiate itself from the labour unions*.

Teachers I’ve had in the past, at school and university, have written globalisation with a “z”, suggesting Americanization of Australia is definitely in progress. It would be different if they had grown up somewhere where the “z” was used, but most of them were born in Australia and grew up in Australia.

Why does this matter? After all, doing a google search for “odours” only yeilds 26.7 per cent of the results “odors” does (based on reliable academic research using the advanced methodology of a “google” search). It is part of our culture. And I believe that stands for something.

Also, it’s pretty annoying to the people who notice it. So we should all try and appease this whingey minority at the expense of our own time. Because stopping people whingeing would also stop people posting annoyingly long, ranty opinions like this.

*The Australian “Labor” Party information is based partly on an urban legend which few people I have asked (including members of the Labor Party) know of. Most say they aren’t sure why there is no “u”. The rest of that story is based on my own, clearly educated assumptions.

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