Watch your words

Two recent news stories on word use, one from a South London school and one from Malaysia.

Slang in school. Passed on by Dave Sayers on VAR-L, the variationists’ mailing list: ” ‘Like’, ‘innit’ and ‘bare’ among slang words banned in school by Harris Academy Upper Norwood” 10/15/13 by Hannah Williamson:

“Like”, “innit” and “bare” are just some of the words firmly placed in the vocabulary of the young people of today, but they have made the list of banned words at one Croydon school.

Students at Harris Academy Upper Norwood now have to think before they speak, after new principal Chris Everitt introduced a list of 10 informal phrases forbidden in classrooms and corridors that are now considered formal language zones.

The list which also includes “coz”, “aint”, “extra” “you woz” and “we woz”, was implemented by Mr Everitt who took charge of the newly opened academy in September.

As part of the initiative students are also unable to begin sentences with “basically” and end sentences with “yeah”.

The banned words form a sample of the frequently heard in places the school considers to be a formal setting.

… The initiative aims to raise awareness about the use of formal language and staff hope it will prepare students for formal situations they will face in later life, such as interviews.

Students are corrected if they are heard to use any of the banned phrases in the formal language zones.

I haven’t found a source that explains what constitutes a formal language zone, but the Harris schools enforce quite a few behavioral standards throughout the schools, including calling out students for ties askew in school corridors.

Note that the banned usages are not only slang words but also non-standard syntax, as in the verb form was in you was and we was.

In case you were wondering about bare, here’s a bit from Wikipedia on London slang:

The large number of immigrant communities and relatively high level of ethnic integration mean that various pronunciations, words and phrases have been fused from a variety of sources to create modern London slang. The emerging dialect draws influences from Jamaican English and other Caribbean speech. This form of slang was born and is mainly spoken in Inner London and has been popularised by UK Rap music. Although the slang has been highly influenced by black immigrant communities, a large number of teenagers of all ethnicities in London have adopted it. Popular slang words include sick (“good”), bare (“very”, “a lot of”), alie (“indeed”, or to encourage agreement), skeen or seen (“I concur”), long (“boring”, “repetitive”), wallad (“fool”), peak (“very bad”), sket (short for the Afro-Caribbean … Skettle, meaning a loose woman), wah gwarn (“what is happening”, “hello”), wavey (“tipsy”), badman (“thug”), jezzy (“loose woman” (from Jezebel)), ting (“thing”, or, when pluralised, to refer to the current situation), bossman (patriarchal figure), safe (“trustworthy”, “good”, or to show agreement), spliff (“marijuana” or to refer to an individual marijuana cigarette), peng (“attractive” i.e girl), leng (“weapon”), piff (“above average”, derived from a strain of marijuana), nang (something desirable), dutty (“dirty”), Happz (“happy”), allow it (“leave it be”) .

Allah in Maylasia. From the NYT on the 15th, in “Malaysian Court Restricts Use of ‘Allah’ to Muslims” by Thomas Fuller:

A Malaysian court ruled on Monday that non-Muslims may not use the word “Allah” to refer to God, the latest decision in a long dispute that has polarized the multicultural country.

The decision, by a panel of three judges, was intended to protect Islam, the country’s official religion, from conversions.

“It is my judgment that the most possible and probable threat to Islam, in the context of this country, is the propagation of other religions to the followers of Islam,” the chief judge, Mohamed Apandi Ali, said in the decision, according to the news Web site Malaysiakini.

The Malay language is infused with Arabic, and while 60 percent of the population is Muslim, Malay-speaking members of other monotheistic faiths in the country often use Allah to refer to God.

Monday’s ruling overturned a 2009 judgment that allowed a Catholic newspaper, The Herald, to use Allah in its Malay-language newspaper.

The use of the word Allah “is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity,” the chief judge said. “The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community.”

Non-Muslims in Malaysia, where religion, ethnicity and politics are tightly intertwined, reacted with anger.

The story has been widely reported, but (so far as I can see) without an account of the penalties for the use of Allah by non-Muslims.



5 Responses to “Watch your words”

  1. Mar Rojo Says:

    Thanks for mentioning the London schools move. Can give your opinion on the move, Arnold?

  2. Mar Rojo Says:

    What punishment would non-Muslims face if they used “Allah”?

  3. Z Says:

    Ouch! I can absolutely understand why people react with anger.

  4. Mar Rojo Says:

    Was waiting for Arnold’s reaction.

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