x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Tweet surrender

The Queen's English Society is no more, done in by Twitter, and text messages, or perhaps by the reality that English is a flexible, evolving language.

As Queen Elizabeth's jubilee celebrations wind to a close, news has arrived from Britain that the Queen's English Society is preparing to disband. The self-appointed guardian of the written and spoken word in the English language is closing at the end of this month because only 22 people turned up to its most recent meeting and none of them was prepared to take on committee positions, including that now held by Rhea Williams, a woman who has been its chairman - yes, chairman - since late 2010.

Established 40 years ago, the society has fought against American spell checkers, misspellings, double negatives and misplaced apostrophes, and it has championed - largely in vain - the use of upper-class "received English" instead of regional accents in television and radio broadcasts. Its members once even corrected the Queen's speech.

Britain's newspapers have been quick to lay blame, saying that Twitter and text-messaging, with their abbreviations and deviations, have killed off interest in, and knowledge of, standard English.

Mrs Williams has been more philosophical, noting that "things change, people change". While it's true that certain standards ought to be maintained, her observation should resonate strongly here in the UAE, where multiple versions of the English language are heard every day, yet we all manage to understand each other, most of the time.