I mailed away for a number of papers from the Strathy Language Unit, Queen’s University. They weren’t really worth it in the end, but, in the book entitled In Search of the Standard in Canadian English (W.C. Lougheed, ed.), I found a paper by H. MacDonald with the not-unfabulous title “Learning to Live with ‘The Soup That Eats Like a Meal’: A Response to M.O. Nowlan.” MacDonald writes:

[A myth], popular in North America, is that British usage is superior. Have you any peaches? is more gracious, more aristocratic than Have you got any peaches? Whilst is more elegant than while, cinema more refined than movie theatre. […]

[Another myth,] popular in Canada, is that correctness of expression is associated with loyalty to the Crown. It is the Queen’s English, after all. Her majesty is particularly offended if we use American spelling. Writing labor or center is, we all know, tantamount to treason. […]

[Yet another myth] is that English usage is the same everywhere. “English is English – isn’t it?” This is a line I heard over and over when I asked both teachers and students if they knew what might be meant by “Canadian English” or “Canadian usage.” This question caused more perplexity than any other. When pressed, all knew vocabulary differences like the British lorry for truck, and lift for elevator, or the American soda for pop, or Girl Scouts for Girl Guides [not, strictly speaking, a comparable example, since they aren’t the same thing]…. [N]either teachers nor students could think of Canadian English by itself. They thought of it only in contrast to American or British usage. […]

Chances are that those same teachers who can expound at length on the influence of the automobile on the twentieth-century novel and who can rattle off 37 characteristics of ballads at the drop of a hat have not taken a single post-high-school course on English usage…. What remains for them to pass along to their students? The myths – and a queasy feeling in the pit of the stomach.

Hence, an English-lit grad is not per se qualified to do captioning. Sorry you couldn’t get any other kind of job, but captioning ain’t for you either. Do you seriously think your degree sets you up real good to caption Battlestar Galactica, an antacid commercial, a heavy-metal music video, a children’s playtime series, or a promo for Hockey Night in Canada?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.09.29 12:09. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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