A real there there

My grammar check immediately spots I have repeated a word, but never mind! As soon as I heard this wonderful new noun (a ‘there-there’), I found it captivating. How much more immediate than solace or consolation.

Other recent activity has also shown me that the vocabulary of interesting words I was encouraged to use in the old days so as to avoid repetition and cliché now has to be set aside in certain circumstances. In order to be found by the all-controlling search engines, one must use a prescribed set of words for each situation. It’s not that other wow words (as the youngsters call them) are proscribed, it’s just that the search engines don’t recognise a thing described with them!

This reminds me of linguistics lessons back when linguistics was a new topic: the prescribed expression is what you should say; you may not say the proscribed version if you wish to be correct; and the described version is what people actually do say – even if the books say they shouldn’t.

My meaningful UK English also seems to be mocked by new vocabulary. The children are learning about the rainforest. I receive the important vocabulary to be studied, which includes canopy, forest floor, emergent trees and the understory.

Canopy and forest floor I can understand. Emergent is a nice word – though hardly an everyday one, and confusingly similar to emergency for 7 year olds. Understory – hmm! The word story in UK English comes up with tale, rumour, article, lie with the trusty Shift+f7 Thesaurus, whereas storey has row, level, layer. US English on the other hand has tale, rumor, article, lie for story but tells me I cannot spell if I enter storey. So I presume that the rainforest understory has been named in US English and the UK has not done its own version!

How lucky that most children will automatically spell it without the e – even if the ancients are turning in their graves in the ‘understorey’!

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