Back again, after a long hiatus. New year’s resolution number one, buckle down and really turn this blog from an occasional hobby, often neglected, into a real personal project!

So, to begin, I found a ton of cool stuff recently in the Guardian (I have a bunch of stuff bookmarked form the last few weeks, it’ll take me some time to get through, so I’ll start with the more recent finds).

Here’s an interesting opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section. This Polish chick takes the British to task for speaking horribly, for dumbing down the English language, for being, well, inarticulate morons. Ok, now I’ve heard some not very pretty stuff in pubs in London, Swansea and Edinburgh for starters, but I think she’s missing something about the English language. Some of the commenters (and I’m surprised more of them didn’t lose the plot over this piece) make very good observations about what makes English rich, and especially what nuances many foreigners (like this one) have difficulty with.

I find it especially true from my experience with native speakers of French and Spanish that they tend to use words that, to us native speakers, sound far too formal, because those words in English tend to have Latin roots and are therefore more familiar to them. They might think it makes them sounds fluent and clever, but to me, it makes them sound awkward. If someone’s mastered their phrasal verbs, however, I am impressed.

I can say a lot of things technically impressive in Spanish, but when I go back down to Córdoba for a visit and spend some time around little old men in a sherry bar, I realize I have only the most tenuous grasp of this language. But I don’t call them inarticulate for it, I just take it as a sign that I have a lot left to learn. And I try to enjoy the challenge.

One of the commenters also linked to this classic by George Orwell, Politics and the English Language. Generally a good piece for any writer to read, I remember it from sophomore English class and some bits of it have stuck with me ever since. I don’t agree, stylistically, with everything he rips to pieces (for example, i think sometimes creating a sort of double negative like the “not un-” construction can be useful and create another mode of expression different from the simple positive), but on the whole, a lot of folks out there, especially second language speakers of English, could learn a lot from his simple instructions:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Just realized the last post before the holidays was Orwell as well. Have I mentioned I like him? His Homage to Catalonia is one of my maybe three or four favorite non-fiction books so far.