For the Love of Language
I’ve really enjoyed the debacle over Andrew Mitchell calling that police officer a pleb. I’m not going to side with one or the other, frankly it is none of my business. I was just pleased a piece of Latin made the news. You can probably tell I study Classics.
The bizarre sense of joy and elation I felt at seeing a word related to my subject appear on the news must be how an economics student feels every time Robert Peston appears on the BBC. The story got me thinking about how we use language. How many of us honestly knew what the word plebeian was before this story hit the news? How many of us had even heard of the word plebeian?
I am a terrible show off and love dropping in the occasional foreign phrase or modern reference to pimp my sentences and pretentiously prove I know things. When you say things like this in front of hoi polloi they either fake understanding or withdraw in horror as they think you are speaking in tongues. It gives me a great feeling of schadenfreude.
One of my favourite Fry and Laurie sketches is about the two of them discussing language, during which Stephen Fry says “Language is my mother, my father, my husband, my brother, my sister, my whore, my mistress, my check-out girl.” The reason I love this sketch is that, aside from being funny, he is right.
Looking at my comedic heroes I find that wordplay is what draws me to a lot of them. When I write sketches I usually find I have a piece of wordplay at the heart of it and then build the rest around that. Usually it is the funniest part. Language is wonderfully flexible and I believe English is especially so, which lends itself so well to comedy.
So don’t apologize for loving language. It lets you communicate, it gives me a job. And if you want to drop a Latin bombshell like Mr. Mitchell then go ahead. Veni, vedi, locutus sum Latina. I came, I saw, I spoke Latin.
Ben Macpherson is a second year classics student. When he isn’t writing or studying he’s wasting his time doing stand up, improv or performing sketches on URN.