I was walking down the high street last Saturday afternoon after buying a newspaper from the corner shop when a youth, in a bit of a rush, bumped into me. “Oi wotchit” came rattling out of his mouth along with some half-masticated Ginster’s.
This little incident got me thinking about how the English language, in the right hands, can be poetic and inspiring; but the same phrase can just as easily have all of the beauty squeezed out of it.
So what would our forefathers make of the English language in the 21st century? It’s interesting to compare these two versions of Matthew, Chapter 8, Verses 1 & 2:
The Wyclif Bible 1389
Forsothe when Jhesus hadde comen doun fro the hil, many cumpanyes folewiden hym. And loo! a leprouse man cummynge worshipide hym, sayinge, Lord, yif thou wolt, thou maist make me clene.
King James Bible 1611
When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And bringing us right up to date…
Imaginary Urban Bible 2010
This geezer, right, comes walking past Costcutters wiv ‘is crew. So this skanky bloke comes up to ‘im and starts givin’ it all “Yo bluud, I ‘eard about you from my mate Steve, an’ ‘e reckons you is wicked.” So, finkin’ that this geezer is a bit decent like, ‘e goes, “tell ya what, you sort me out wiv a miracle and I’ll big you up to all the Chatham posse, ya get me?”