On language

My wife returned from a week-long visit to England on Saturday with one vocal lament: she misses the richer, more complex language you hear every day in England. She, of course, listens to Radio 4, reads The Guardian and watches BBC Newsnight, not Capitol Radio, The Sun and Coronation Street. But still. She quoted one woman she heard on the radio who was discussing her discovery, relatively late in life, of scuba diving. The wind “wafted” and the water was “turbid”. Two words, the supposition was, that you wouldn’t hear in ordinary discourse even in Berkeley.

Funnily enough, this morning I heard one example that thoroughly confirmed Tracey’s view, and one that demolished it.

Listening to KDFC, the San Francisco classical music station, this morning, I heard the following intro, which must rank as the most dumbed-down ever voiced on a classical station: “He wrote it in 1787 and no one knows why. But we’re glad he did!” That to introduce Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Yikes. (You can get a sense of what a sad classical station KDFC is by their slogan: “Casual, Comfortable, Classical”. But it’s all we have here.) But then I was listening to Michael Krasny on KQED‘s Forum and he described someone’s behavior as eleemosynary. Wow.

5 thoughts on “On language

  1. Greg Tolman

    I was struck by Krasny’s use of eleemosynary, too. I had just come upon the word on level 50 of freerice.com
    and I am sure that is where he recently encountered it, and why it just “popped into his head.” Now, Krasny has a formidable intellect, with a vocabulary to match, but that is a word that is truly obscure.

  2. Lance Knobel

    I’m impressed you reached level 50 of freerice.com. I seem to get stuck at level 48, although I think I once climbed to 49.

  3. Lance Knobel

    I know that can be true. But most radio listening in our household — and I suspect California in general — is in the car. So no Radio 4 or 3 in that case.

  4. nemrut

    Much of the ‘richness..’ of language in the UK your wife fawns over is the byproduct of a deep rooted class system whereby how one expresses themselves is a direct reflection of their place in the societal strata.

    This has little to do with the supposed English love of language and rich expression implied by your wife’s generalization.


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