June 09, 2005

Horse 352 - Language in Gaol

The news in this country over the last few days has been replete with high-profile court cases; trials, hearings and whatnot (Shapelle Corby, Michael Jackson, phone-chucker Russell Crowe) but what I'm really peeved off with the the use of the word jail. This may be because I happen to live in the United States of Australia that has no life or will of its own, but increasingly the media here is becoming very lax and I wish to call an anathema on it. I even saw the word colorize in print yesterday. Colorize? It's not a real word surely. The nearest word would be colourise I should think. Also, the pronunciation of 'Z' is getting annoying. 'Zed' not 'Zee'! It makes me angry how Americans want to say 'zee' just so it rhymes, what's worse is that 30 years of Sesame St are beginning to have an effect on Aussie kids.

Now I'm the first to admit that language is an evolving animal that should adapt as needs bear and I'll even conceed that the standard repository for language in this wide brown land of telephone chuckers is the Macquarie and not the Oxford Dictionary but even the Macquarie doesn't include jail or color within its pages. -ise is the accepted variant and even words like elevator and automobile should be replaced with 24 carat honest words like lift and car.

Jail? Horrid word.

The whole purpose of having a dictionary is to standardise the language, or else we'd be stuck in the utter chaos of Chaucerian English. I may hold on to the old ways like a well chewed shoe, but my time has not yet passed. Especially when an institution like Old Melbourne Gaol was printed in the newspaper as Jail, even with a photograph of the sign in the background. Don't even get me started on traffic circles, I mean what are they supposed to be? Ah, someone meant to say a roundabout. I've said it once and i'll say it again. 'Center' is the final frontier. As soon as we go down that track I leave this country behind.

My big gripe with Windows/Office etc is that it always seems to default to US English. When I install Windows on my machine I always specify Aus regional and language settings so why can't Office pick this up and give me the Aus English dictionary by default? Why does MS Publisher not pick up the same dictionary settings as for MS Word? And why is it in MS Publisher that when I change the dictionary to Australian English that it continues changing my s's to z's? I may not be a fan of American-English but I accept that its usage is probably more widespread than Anglo-English. Just please don't force me to use it, I far prefer the style, character and quaintness of the traditional Anglo version.

And Jail vs Gaol? I admit I think that Gaol looks far more old-fashioned (and thus, perversely, trendy).


Fernando said...

It's one thing to take pride in your culture and another to start getting a little narrow-minded. It's like a certain infamous leader who made his people stop using "Bibliothek" and start using "Buecherei"...what difference does it make? A Bibliothek is a Buecherei is a place where books are stored.

Sorry to sound so sunshiny and rainbow-y (I invented a word) but I love languages and dialects and the differences are what makes them so cool. In the South (U.S.) they have something called chitlins. They're just sausages. But as far as I care, if someone went around taking "sausage" out of the dictionaries and replaced it with "chitlin", I sure wouldn't have a meltdown over it.

But maybe I'm not partial because I'm not your average person, or U.S. citizen for that matter. I watch way more BBC programs than most people around here and have read more British literature than American literature and have even adopted such words as "parcel" and "flat". I also have taken up plenty of Spanish words, like "chonies" for underwear and "mocos" for bugars (This is what happens when you work at a preschool).

Ok, this is long enough, but I have one more comment: Why don't Americans cooperate with the rest of the world and call it "football" instead of "soccer"? It really does make more sense. What was the point of calling our other game "football"? Just to be confusing? This is my only gripe.

Rollo said...

To clarify:

I have no problem with American English being used in the USA (it's good, proper and prudent) but in Australia?

As an aside, what is THE standard over there?

Football here was called soccer (which is a corruption of the word association - the full name being Association Football hence the FA Cup) until recently when Soccer Australia changed its name to Football Australia after it was re-organised.

Del said...

In NZ we have "chilly bins" and not eskys. In Queensland school kids carry "ports" and not back packs.

Isn't a gaol a dyslexic score at a football match?

I always thought a jail was something different to a gaol, I guess not.