Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On the Bastardization of English by the vulgar folk ...

       

       "Zeal to promote the common good, whether it be by devising anything ourselves, or revising that which hath been laboured by others, deserveth certainly much respect and esteem, but yet findeth but cold entertainment in the world. It is welcomed with suspicion instead of love, and with emulation instead of thanks: and if there be any hole left for cavil to enter, (and cavil, if it do not find a hole, will make one) it is sure to be misconstrued, and in danger to be condemned. This will easily be granted by as many as know story, or have any experience. For, was there ever any thing projected, that savoured any way of newness or renewing, but the same endured many a storm of gainsaying, or opposition? A man would think that Civility, wholesome Laws, learning and eloquence, Synods, and Church-maintenance, (that we speak of no more things of this kind) should be as safe as a Sanctuary, and out of shot, as they say, that no man would lift up the heel, no, nor dog move his tongue against the motioners of them. For by the first, we are distinguished from brute beasts lead with sensuality; By the second, we are bridled and restrained from outrageous behaviour, and from doing of injuries, whether by fraud or by violence; By the third, we are enabled to inform and reform others, by the light and feeling that we have attained unto ourselves; Briefly, by the fourth being brought together to a parley face to face, we sooner compose our differences than by writings which are endless; And lastly, that the Church be sufficiently provided for, is so agreeable to good reason and conscience, that those mothers are holden to be less cruel, that kill their children as soon as they are born, than those nursing fathers and mothers (wheresoever they be) that withdraw from them who hang upon their breasts (and upon whose breasts again themselves do hang to receive the Spiritual and sincere milk of the word) livelihood and support fit for their estates. Thus it is apparent, that these things which we speak of, are of most necessary use, and therefore, that none, either without absurdity can speak against them, or without note of wickedness can spurn against them.  


Yet for all that, the learned know that certain worthy men have been brought to untimely death for none other fault, but for seeking to reduce their countrymen to good order and discipline; and that in some Commonwealths it was made a capital crime, once to motion the making of a new Law for the abrogating of an old, though the same were most pernicious; And that certain, which would be counted pillars of the State, and patterns of Virtue and Prudence, could not be brought for a long time to give way to good Letters and refined speech, but bare themselves as averse from them, as from rocks or boxes of poison; And fourthly, that he was no babe, but a great clerk, that gave forth (and in writing to remain to posterity) in passion peradventure, but yet he gave forth, that he had not seen any profit to come by any Synod, or meeting of the Clergy, but rather the contrary; And lastly, against Church-maintenance and allowance, in such sort, as the Ambassadors and messengers of the great King of Kings should be furnished, it is not unknown what a fiction or fable (so it is esteemed, and for no better by the reporter himself, though superstitious) was devised; Namely, that at such a time as the professors and teachers of Christianity in the Church of Rome, then a true Church, were liberally endowed, a voice forsooth was heard from heaven, saying: Now is poison poured down into the Church, etc. Thus not only as oft as we speak, as one saith, but also as oft as we do anything of note or consequence, we subject ourselves to everyone's censure, and happy is he that is least tossed upon tongues; for utterly to escape the snatch of them it is impossible. If any man conceit, that this is the lot and portion of the meaner sort only, and that Princes are privileged by their high estate, he is deceived. As the sword devoureth as well one as the other, as it is in Samuel [2 Sam 11:25], nay as the great Commander charged his soldiers in a certain battle, to strike at no part of the enemy, but at the face; And as the King of Syria commanded his chief Captains to fight neither with small nor great, save only against the King of Israel: [1 Kings 22:31] so it is too true, that Envy striketh most spitefully at the fairest, and at the chiefest. David was a worthy Prince, and no man to be compared to him for his first deeds, and yet for as worthy as act as ever he did (even for bringing back the Ark of God in solemnity) he was scorned and scoffed at by his own wife [2 Sam 6:16]. Solomon was greater than David, though not in virtue, yet in power: and by his power and wisdom he built a Temple to the Lord, such a one as was the glory of the land of Israel, and the wonder of the whole world. But was that his magnificence liked of by all? We doubt of it. Otherwise, why do they lay it in his son's dish, and call unto him for easing of the burden, Make, say they, the grievous servitude of thy father, and his sore yoke, lighter. [1 Kings 12:4] Belike he had charged them with some levies, and troubled them with some carriages; Hereupon they raise up a tragedy, and wish in their heart the Temple had never been built. So hard a thing it is to please all, even when we please God best, and do seek to approve ourselves to everyone's conscience."

(Preface King James Version in the edition of 1611)


This is good standard 15th century English.  I can understand very little of it.  It is not the language of the common or Vulgar people.  It was written in a time when the language of the court was French or Latin.  The church was unwilling to produce a Bible in English because it was doubted the English Language had sufficient linguistic capacity to convey difficult theological subjects.

A generation before, William Tyndale began a project to demonstrate that the language of the vulgar, or common, English could transmit gospel teachings. 


  "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God.  As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face which shall prepare thy way before thee; The voice of a crier in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptise in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins.  And all the land of Jewry, and they of Jerusalem went out unto him, and were all baptised of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a beast's skin about his loins. And he did eat locusts and wild honey, and preached, saying, "A stronger than I cometh after me, whose shoe latchet I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I have baptised you with water: but he shall baptise you with the holy ghost." 
  (Mark Chapter 1)

This is good standard street level language of the English People.  It is easily read with rhyme and meter.

The Language of the English is a combination of Language of the Germans, Angles, Celts, and the Norman French conquerors.  It was ruled by Rome for 300 years but it did not develop a Latin Language.

I know we often disparage the change in the English Language as the common folk create, change and mold it.  Twitter, texting and Facebook have strongly shaped the language in the current generation.  Even as The Tyndale Translation and English Common Book of Prayer shaped and molded 16-17th century English.

The ability of the English Language to shape and mold itself to the needs of the rising generation while retaining its ability to communicate  ageless thought is part of why it is the dominate language in the world today.