Pub Talk and the King's English 3 Pub Talk and the King' s English Henry Fairlie 1 Conversation is the most sociable of all human activities. And it is an activity only of humans. However intricate the ways in which animals communicate with each other, they do not indulge in anything that deserves the name of conversation. 2 The charm of conversation is that it does not really start from anywhere, and no one has any idea where it will go as it meanders or leaps and sparkles or just glows. The enemy of good conversation is the person who has "something to say." Conversation is not for making a point. Argument may often be a part of it, but the purpose of the argument is not to convince. There is no winning in conversation. In fact, the best conversationalists are those who are prepared to lose. Suddenly they see the moment for one of their best anecdotes, but in a flash the conversation has moved on and the opportunity is lost. They are ready to let it go. 3 Perhaps it is because of my up-bringing in English pubs that I think bar conversation has a charm of its own.
Bar friends are not deeply involved in each other's lives. They are companions, not intimates. The fact that their marriages may be on the rooks, or that their love affairs have been broken or even that they got out of bed on the wrong side is simply not a concern. They are like the musketeers of Dumas who, although they lived side by side with each other, did not delve into,each other's lives or the recesses of their thoughts and feelings. 4 It was on such an occasion the other evening, as the conversation moved desultorily here and there, from the most commonplace to thoughts of Jupiter, without any focus and with no need for one, that suddenly the alchemy of conversation took place, and all at once there was a focus. I do not remember what made one of our companions say it--she clearly had not come into the bar to say it, it was not something that was pressing on her mind--but her remark fell quite naturally into the talk. 5 "Someone told me the Other day that the phrase, 'the King's English' was a term of criticism, that it means language which one should not properly use." 6 The glow of the conversation burst into flames. There were affirmations and protests and denials, and of course
the promise, made in all such conversation, that we would look it up on the morning. That would settle it; but conversation does not need to be settled; it could still go ignorantly on. 7 It was an Australian who had given her such a definition of "the King's English," which produced some rather tart remarks about what one could expect from the descendants of convicts. We had traveled in five minutes to Australia. Of course, there would be resistance to the King's English in such a society. There is always resistance in the lower classes to any attempt by an upper class to lay down rules for "English as it should be spoken." 8 Look at the language barrier between the Saxon churls and their Norman conquerors. The conversation had swung from Australian convicts of the 19th century to the English peasants of the 12th century. Who was right, who was wrong, did not matter. The conversation was on wings. 9 Someone took one of the best-known of examples, which is still always worth the reconsidering. When we talk of meat on our tables we use French words; when we speak of the animals from which the meat comes we use Anglo-Saxon words. It is a pig in its sty ; it is pork (porc) on
the table. They are cattle in the fields, but we sit down to beef (boeuf). Chickens become poultry (poulet), and a calf becomes veal (veau). Even if our menus were not wirtten in French out of snobbery, the English we used in them would still be Norman English. What all this tells us is of a deep class rift in the culture of England after the Norman conquest. 10 The Saxon peasants who tilled the land and reared the animals could not afford the meat, which went to Norman tables. The peasants were allowed to eat the rabbits that scampered over their fields and, since that meat was cheap, the Norman lords of course turned up their noses at it. So rabbit is still rabbit on our tables, and not changed into some rendering of lapin. 11 As we listen today to the arguments about bilingual education, we ought to think ourselves back into the shoes of the Saxon peasant. The new ruling class had built a cultural barrier against him by building their French against his own language. There must have been a great deal of cultural humiliation felt by the English when they revolted under Saxon leaders like Hereward the Wake. "The King's English"--if the term had existed then--had become French.
And here in America now, 900 years later, we are still the heirs to it. 12 So the next morning, the conversation over, one looked it up. The phrase came into use some time in the 16th century. "Queen's English" is found in Nash's "Strange Newes of the Intercepting Certaine Letters" in 1593, and in 1602, Dekker wrote of someone, "thou clipst the Kinge's English." Is the phrase in Shakespeare? That would be the confirmation that it was in general use. He uses it once, when Mistress Quickly in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" says of her master coming home in a rage, "... here will be an old abusing of God's patience and the King's English," and it rings true. 13 One could have expected that it would be about then that the phrase would be coined. After five centuries of growth, o1f tussling with the French of the Normans and the Angevins and the Plantagenets and at last absorbing it, the conquered in the end conquering the conqueror. English had come royally into its own. 14 There was a King's (or Queen' s) English to be proud of. The Elizabethans blew on it as on a dandelion clock, and its seeds multiplied, and floated to the ends of the earth.
"The King's English" was no longer a form of what would now be regarded as racial discrimination. 15 Yet there had been something in the remark of the Australian. The phrase has always been used a little pejoratively and even facetiously by the lower classes. One feels that even Mistress Quickly--a servant--is saying that Dr. Caius--her master--will lose his control and speak with the vigor of ordinary folk. If the King's English is "English as it should be spoken," the claim is often mocked by the underlings, when they say with a jeer "English as it should be spoke." The rebellion against a cultural dominance is still there. 16 There is always a great danger, as Carlyle put it, that "words will harden into things for us." Words are not themselves a reality, but only representations of it, and the King's English, like the Anglo-French of the Normans, is a class representation of reality. Perhaps it is worth trying to speak it, but it should not be laid down as an edict , and made immune to change from below. 17 I have an unending love affair with dictionaries-Auden once said that all a writer needs is a pen, plenty of paper and "the best dictionaries he can
afford"--but I agree with the person who said that dictionaries are instruments of common sense. The King's English is a model?a rich and instructive one--but it ought not to be an ultimatum. 18 So we may return to my beginning. Even with the most educated and the most literate, the King's English slips and slides in conversation. There is no worse conversationalist than the one who punctuates his words as he speaks as if he were writing, or even who tries to use words as if he were composing a piece of prose for print. When E. M. Forster writes of " the sinister corridor of our age," we sit up at the vividness of the phrase, the force and even terror in the image. But if E. M. Forster sat in our living room and said, "We are all following each other down the sinister corridor of our age," we would be justified in asking him to leave. 19 Great authors are constantly being asked by foolish people to talk as they write. Other people may celebrate the lofty conversations in which the great minds are supposed to have indulged in the great salons of 18th century Paris, but one suspects that the great minds were gossiping and judging the quality of the food and the wine. Henault, then
the great president of the First Chamber of the Paris Parlement, complained bitterly of the "terrible sauces " at the salons of Mme. Deffand, and went on to observe that the only difference between her cook and the supreme chef, Brinvilliers , lay in their intentions. 20 The one place not to have dictionaries is in a sit ting room or at a dining table. Look the thing up the next morning, but not in the middle of the conversation. Other wise one will bind the conversation, one will not let it flow freely here and there. There would have been no conversation the other evening if we had been able to settle at one the meaning of "the King's English." We would never hay gone to Australia, or leaped back in time to the Norman Conquest. 21 And there would have been nothing to think about the next morning. Perhaps above all, one would not have been engaged by interest in the musketeer who raised the subject, wondering more about her. The bother about teaching chimpanzees how to talk is that they will probably try to talk sense and so ruin all conversation.
Pub Talk and the King's English 词汇 词汇(Vocabulary) 词汇(Vocabulary) 词汇
intricate (adj) : hard to follow or understand because full of puzzling parts,details,or relationships 错综复杂的;难以理 解的,难懂的 indulge (v.) : give way to one’s own desire 尽情享受;从事于 meander (v.) : wander aimlessly or idly;ramble 漫步;闲逛 conversationalist (n.) : a person who converses;esp.,one who enjoys and is skilled at conversation 交谈者;(尤指)健谈 者
anecdote (n.) : a short,entertaining account of some happening,usually personal or biographical 轶事,逸事 intimate (n.) : a close friend or companion 密友,知己 on the rocks [colloq.] : in or into a condition of ruin or catastrophe (婚姻)破坏的;失败的 musketeer (n.) : (formerly)a soldier armed with a musket 火枪手 delve (v.) : investigate for information;search 发掘;调查(研 究) recess (n.) : a secluded,withdrawn,or inner place 幽深处
desultorily (adv.) : aimlessly;at random 随意地;无目的地 alchemy (n.) : an early form of chemistry,whose chief aims were to change baser metals into gold:a method or power of transmutation; esp. the seemingly miraculous change of a thing into something better 炼金术;变化物质的方法或魔力 tart (adj.) : sharp in taste;sour;acid 辛辣的;尖酸的;刻薄 的 convict (n.) : a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court 罪犯 churl (n.) : a farm laborer;peasant 农民;庄稼人,乡下人 rift (n.) : an open break in a previously friendly relationship
分裂;失和 scamper (v.) : run or go hurriedly or quickly 急驰,快跑 rendering (n.) : a translation 翻译 bilingual (adj.) : of,in or using two languages(用)两种语言 的 intercept (v.) : seize or stop on the way, before arrival at the intended place 拦截;截断;截击。 abuse (v.) : use wrongly;use insulting,coarse or bad language;scold harshly 滥用;辱骂,口出恶言 coin (v.) : make up;devise;invent(a new word,phrase,
etc.)编造;杜撰(新词、新短语等) tussle (v.) : fight,struggle,contend,etc.vigorously or vehemently 斗争,搏斗;竞争 dandelion (n.) : any of several plants of the composite family,common lawn weeds with jagged leaves,often used as greens,and ye
 

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