Friday, 5 December 2014

Writing - A well known phrase or saying.

A couple of news items hit me as significant, and somewhat disturbing, today. It also triggered thoughts of education particularly in the realm of English Language.

A government body charged with assessing the efficacy of GP services have dropped a clanger. They published league tables showing how good, or bad, local doctor's services are before the voracity of their statistical method had been verified. It turns out that there were flaws in that method and it has to be changed re-grouping some local practices out of the 'at risk' sector upwards into a safer group.

Look before you leap

Our government have recently introduced legislation about parcels being sent into prisons. The reasons for the new rules are perfectly reasonable as it is an attempt to stop drugs and mobile phones being smuggled into prisons, however books are banned also. Are they banned because

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

or is it because the powers introducing the laws have seen Shawshank Redemption where a rock hammer is smuggled into the prison in a book.

The point of these examples is to highlight the need for the careful use of language and of the embellishments that exist to help writers and readers enjoy colour in writing.

As a teacher throughout the last 30 years of the 20th century well known phrases and sayings were a small but essential part of delivering the language. However, as that fashion seems to have waned the sayings are only passed down through the spoken word and what has resulted are distortions brought about by the 'Chinese whisper' method of cascading these valuable and useful parts of our language. I've even heard supposedly intelligent people mixing proverbs.

Teaching proverbs used to provide lots of opportunities for imaginative writing and art work but that was before the advent of prescriptive National Curriculum. 

I lament the passing and misuse of sayings and proverbs. Many of them had their roots in local culture and had developed over hundreds of years and as such will be replaced but more than likely with words and acronyms that those of my generation don't recognise.

So some examples you have already seen in italics above but here are a few more,

Too many cooks spoil the broth

A stitch in time saves nine 

 A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

The 'stitch in time' proverb I find is very apt in today's world and has sprung to mind with regards to climate issues. The government are throwing money at flood defences which is too late. The stitch in time would be the efficient maintenance of water drainage systems which would be less costly in the long run than building higher and higher dykes.

God Bless