Thursday, November 24, 2011

A whole bunch of dumb

Thursday, November 24, 2011 1
Too long ago in this very galaxy I attended a junior school where it was deemed acceptable practice to torture the kids. The teachers were the worst; one technique was to force us to memorise dozens of the most common collective nouns for no greater purpose than being able to regurgitate them under test conditions. There are literally hundreds of weird and wonderful (and often counter intuitive) combinations so this was no mean feat for a ten year old.

The upshot? I still know to this day that when locusts call an AGM they gather in a 'plague', lepers communally crumble and disintegrate en masse in a 'colony' and kittens were playing with 'kindles' long before Amazon adopted the term. Joking aside, it did teach us that there is poetry and art to be found in the quirky nuances of the English language. If it sparked a passion for literature in just a handful of us it was time well spent.

Fast-forward to 2011 and even the most mundane collective nouns have been eradicated from the language. Why trouble yourself with all that tiresome thinking when you can just lump everything together in bunches? A bunch of friends, a bunch of fun, a bunch of information. Even a bunch of water! Another US-driven nail in the coffin for the English language. And you - like - thought things couldn't get any - you know - worse, or whatever.

Saying that, it does dovetail very nicely with the recent, politically correct trend to steer clear of labelling pupils as failures by banning grades, or even testing. Dumb down the language to mindless 'duckspeak' and you take away the opportunity to get something wrong. In cahoots with the 'bunch of' is the technique of rebranding ignorance and laziness as colloquialism, thus making, for example, "I could care less", 'Legos' or using 'England' to refer to any location in the UK, perfectly acceptable. How cute. The trickle-down effect is to reduce all pupils to imbeciles, who no longer feel inadequate, yet remain imbeciles. I think they call it equality.
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