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Gyles Brandreth, a former MP who is a patron of the Queen's English Society, said the society's demise doesn't prove the death of proper English. "The Queen's English isn't under threat," he said.
Purportedly finding itself increasingly irrelevant in an age of 140-character Twitter speak and text abbreviations, the unofficial British guardian of proper English is calling it quits. OMG! #language
The Queen's English Society, which has caviled at writers', politicians' and entertainers' "misuse" of the language for 40 years, is disbanding at the end of the month, its chairwoman, Rhea Williams, announced in a message to members, The Independent reported Monday.
(Befitting the organization's traditionalist bent, Williams insists on being called "chairman.")
Williams sent the notice after the society was able to muster only 22 people to attend its annual conference, which ended with no candidates' having stepped forward for chairman, vice chairman, administrator, webmaster or membership secretary.
The society — whose punctuation guide alone runs to more than 6,000 words — is famous for having taken on the language and speech of the most powerful and popular personalities. Those include BBC announcers, whom it has derided for speaking in their own local accents instead of the plummy English known among academics as Received Pronunciation.
Firmly taking sides in a disagreement that has helped to define modern linguistics studies, the society declares that "we prefer the prescriptive approach to the descriptive approach, as we do not want the language to lose its fine or major distinctions."
But "things change, people change," The Guardian quoted Williams has having said about her decision to announce the society's death. "People care about different things. If you look at lots of societies, lots of them are having problems."
British reports blamed the speed of modern communications.
The Guardian concluded that the society had "finally conceded it cannot survive in the era of textspeak and Twitter." The Daily Mail also blamed Twitter, but it added "contracted spellings and Americanisms" to the list of culprits.
In fact, the Queen's English Society has ruffled many feathers over the years with its Olympian pronouncements on the proper way to speak and write. It has particularly annoyed educators, whom it blames for fostering "permissive" approaches to teaching English, whether it is because they "are not able to correct poor English" or "do not have the time to do so."
Such attacks attract opposition, which is exemplified by the existence of Anti-Queen's English Society, a group founded by English academics to counter claims that "English-which-isn't-the-Queen's is culturally and intellectually lower." As its name implies, the A-QES opposes everything the Queen's English Society stands for, calling its members "archaic perpetuators of linguistic prejudice" and dismissing its research as "laughable."
The Queen's English Society rejects such criticism, contending that it "encourages rich and imaginative English where appropriate, as in poetry, drama, fiction and some non-fiction."
Gyles Brandreth, a former Conservative member of Parliament and broadcaster who is a patron of the society, suggested that such disagreements prove that many people still passionately care about English.
"The Queen's English isn't under threat," Brandreth told The Independent. "Her Majesty can sleep easy. The language is still in the good hands of all the people who speak good English."
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