Sunday, April 24, 2005

From Here To Eternity

Deep down I knew that I was never going to last the full two and a half hours of Gosford Park (on TV last night).
In the event I managed 45 minutes before I lost the will to live. If it was 45 minutes it must have been just longer than the opening credits.

When are film-makers going to realise that human life is finite and get a bloody move on?
45 minutes gone and virtually no story, plot development or narrative. Plus enough characters to fill several pages of a telephone directory. I felt I needed to be taking notes or drawing up some kind of family history chart.
But the screenwriter, Julian Fellowes, got an Oscar so what do I know?

Maybe I was supposed to say 'Never mind the length, feel those production values, look at that all-star cast, marvel at the historical detail.'
Sorry, chaps. I went to bed and had a surreal dream about a black cat. It was a lot more fun and probably means I'll win the Lottery this week.


Carol Thatcher, who claims to be a journalist, spoke on the radio about the 'fulsome' tributes to Sir John Mills.
'Fulsome' means complimentary or flattering to an excessive or nauseating degree. From the context, she clearly didn't mean this.

I accept that language evolves but the richness of our language is being destroyed by laziness. When people see a new word they can't be bothered to look it up in a dictionary. They make a guess at its meaning and then use it in that sense. Soon other people do the same. Eventually the dictionaries put their hands up and change the definition.
The OED already puts a footnote about the mis-usage of 'fulsome' although it hasn't yet changed its definition but it will do so eventually. It's already rolled over and changed the definition of 'jejune' because so many people guessed wrongly that it came from the French 'jeunes'.

Thank God mathematics and the sciences aren't governed by opinion polls. No bridge would ever be safe to cross, most aircraft would crash and no computers would work. If enough people say that 4 x 3 = 11, they don't change the textbooks.


At 3:41 PM, Blogger Mike said...

One that seems to be creeping into misuse is the word 'enormity'to describe magnitude. Users are often unaware that they are describing something excessively wicked rather than something significant. This is so widespread I'm sure that pretty soon its meaning will change.

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Oh there are so many I've long given up. But what does fulsome mean? And jejeune? And jeune? Carol Thatcher is a cow, btw, who's never said one interesting thing that I'm aware of, and owes everything to etc.

Always nauseating to see Sir David being so fulsome over her.

Far, far worse than these transient illiteracies remain the ongoing, constant pronunciation abuses of thee and ay.

"Ay news summary."

"Thee Secretary stated..."

(Willie, I've written about these long and often, but people listen much more when you speak these days, so do feel free if you wish.)

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Sorry Willie, but I Loved Gosford Park. What's wrong with 45 minutes setting the scene? In a proper film, that should mean at least another two hours. Maybe more.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

mjr, I've seen that one too. But Roy Hattersley uses it correctly in his Guardian article today.

Peter, I'm not so bothered about pronunciation, which is often a regional variation.
The things I complained about are not 'transient' because they become enshrined in dictionaries and the earlier meaning is lost forever.

Steve, we'll have to differ on that. Maybe I have Attention Deficit Disorder.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

OK then - that was a sloppy use of "transient", perhaps accidentally illustrating your point better than something more contrived. Me, I have no problem with words changing meaning. Always happened, and always will. Think of the alternative. Perjorative/dismissive "gay" was in episode three of Russel T Davies' Doctor Who. "You're so gay..." (Not meaning homosexual.) There's no doubt that Davies knew exactly what he was doing there.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Peter, I distinguish between slang, which is always fluid and one of the joys of language, and (for want of a better term) serious language.
'Jejune' was mostly used in philosophy and literary criticism rather than everyday speech. Then one day a journalist uses it without checking what it actually means, others copy the usage and eventually the dictionaries adopt the 'new' meaning.
Some call this 'evolution'. I think it's laziness and sloppiness which diminishes the language.

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