Uncle Sam casts his krazy spell

19th December 1997 at 00:00
The Teletubbies have been framed! Blame for murdering language skills among children is heaped on the Teletubby Four by the Early Learning Police. Lala et al are as innocent as OJ Simpson and Louise Woodward (Twinkie denies manslaughter while the others have thankfully exercised their right to remain silent). If our language, and I don't mean Gaelic, is being despoiled then others must be in the dock. J'accuse stinkin' Yankee imperialism, the increasing penchant for using pretentious lingo and shopkeepers.

Flicking through my seven-year-old daughter's schoolwork I was aghast at the number of spelling "mistakes" in her prose. She is an intelligent girl, a keen reader and therein lies the problem. Much of what she reads comes from the land of the donut and Toys 'R Us. It has gotten to the state where children don't recognise the difference between US English and UK English. Through the media the US has become the center of the universe. No wonder kids R mixed up.

The problem begins in the kindergarten years. Many private nurseries use Disney-style names to attract customers. Color advertisements for Pinnochio's in Glasgow boast it is the place for "cool kidz". It is a somber thought that unencumbered by the necessity to get the right letters in the right order these tots graduate to primary school. Infant teachers spend countless hours trying to inculcate good spelling while all around them pop groups rejoice in names like All 4 One and Boyz II Men.

Probably as a result of a junket to the States, schools have imported transatlantic management-speak. They now have "mission statements" to enlighten the ignorant as to the purpose of an educational establishment (raising standards in Glasgow could be labelled "mission impossible" given the downsizing on the horizon). It is rewarding, however, to discover that even the local Texaco garage now has a mission statement. I am sure sales of petrol (gas?) have rocketed.

The parlance has seeped into everyday speech. Teachers are asked to give a "ball park" figure of the numbers likely to attend supported study sessions. Pupils whose behavior merits a punishment exercise are often "grounded" by their mom and dad. A pupil recently asked me to "chill out" when I was berating him regarding lack of effort. The sixth-year dance has become a Valedictory dance. Mark my words, in five years time it will be renamed the Prom.

"Quality time" is taking your offspring to a fast food chain where whopper insipid burgers are washed down by the "real thing". Demented parents attempting to stop their child scattering the "happy meal" and baseball-capped staff smiling constantly in your face are not my idea of having a good day.

Perhaps I am being a li'l hard on ol' Uncle Sam. It has become de rigueur for poncey writers to introduce us to the joys of German. The zeitgeist of the nation is cause for comment and Glasgow's permanent financial crisis leads to much schadenfreude in Edinburgh. We have come a long way from the Commando comic German of Gott im Himmel and Der Teufel but are we the better for it? The language of the Teutons is spreading faster than German tourist towels in Tenerife. A revised rule of thumb is essential for spelling to avoid teenage angst (i before e except after c, and most German words).

According to the latest social trends research, the British are becoming a nation of shoppers. Consumers can find "Krazy Kuts at Kwik Fit" and "Supa Savings at Kwik Save". Birthday cards are available at the Triffic Card Shop in Dunoon and Krackin Kards in Patrick. Kiddies Klobber in Glasgow will undoubtedly kit out your kid for Xmas. It is heart-warming to see how many dyslexic students have found success in the service sector.

A few years ago the French government was derided for striving to maintain the purity of the French language. Perhaps the time has come for Britons to defend their tongue before we all go doolally.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today