Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Party like it's 1986

We've been watching The Story of English with the girls for the past several evenings. It's a 1986 documentary on the history of the English language. The girls love hearing the different accents through the ages, and Darwin and I have picked up some good background on the prounciation of Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare's plays.

What was amusing, though (and we're only part-way through the series, so I don't know how they handle this toward the end) was the very first episode, with its overview of English in the world today (which is to say, 1986). There's a big focus on India, of course, as one of the major sources of non-ethnic English speakers, but in trying to be up-to-the-minute, the program also spotlights Valley Girl slang, surfer talk, and "gay English". The gay section is just lame (it consists of a gay comedian doing a routine about the term "queen", and it wasn't even funny). And hoo boy, does the Valley Girl ethos seem dated. I mean, gag me with a spoon! As if! Grody! Meanwhile, the surfers sat about saying "Rad!" and "Tubular!" to one another and looking a bit stoned. There was also a very short bit of computer-speak. Obviously the producers were trying to cover all the latest trends, though it seems a cinch to me that computers were going to make more of an impact on the vernacular than spoiled California kids.

I take it there's a section that looks a bit a rap music, which intrigues me, since 1986 was before my radio-listening days. I wonder if we'll hear D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince? ("I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson", anyone?) So far, though, we've been treated to the beauty and grandeur of spoken English through the ages, from the early Celts to Shakespeare.

English is tubular, dudes.


Julie D. said...

We watched this when it came out on PBS originally and I still remember how good it was including the final bit about rap ... although I always have shared George Harrison's views on rap. :-D

Dorian Speed said...

Wait...people don't say "grody" anymore?

They are missing out, dude.

Fred said...

For a more in-depth study, I highly recommend A History of the English Language by Baugh and Cable.

Enbrethiliel said...


I should ask my school library to order a copy. Thanks for mentioning it! :)