April 24, 2005

Another day, another reprinted press release

Mary Blume has an article in Friday IHT about Jean-Paul Nerrière's "Globish". Read her article, read about Charles Kay Ogden's "Basic English", and then tell me what's really new here. It's easy to see why Nerrière doesn't tell us about the history of this concept, since he's trademarked "Globish" and is selling various products based on it. But it's harder to understand why the IHT would essentially reprint Nerrière's press release, without giving the context that any culturally literate person should know about.

I'm not a difficult person, really I'm not, but here I am carping about incompetent journalists again. Please send me links to well-researched and insightful articles in the popular press, so I can balance blame with praise. [That's myl at cis.upenn.edu].

Benjamin Zimmer sent email to point out one difference between Ogden and Nerrière -- Ogden could write reasonably well.

In Nerrière's English explanation of Globish, we're invited to "Read the two documents below, in sequence as presented here, and then ask yourself the one and only key question: 'if I wanted to help someone in Zanzibar or Oulan-Bator understand what is the idea behind globish, which of the two documents should I send?'".

Here's the start of the so-called "American version":

This little tidbit of literary joy is amiable and a slam dunk to peruse, notwithstanding the fact that it has the overwhelming gall to propose a revamping of our methods of verbal exchange around the world.

Here's the equivalent portion in "Globish":

This book is easy to read and with pleasure. Still, it proposes a complete change in the way we communicate around the world.

Here's a comment in a more genuinely American idiom: "bullshit". I apologize for using a philosophical term of art, but you can find an explanation by following the links.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 24, 2005 09:46 AM