Minutes of the Academy
The Times of London has published an article on an effort by the Queen’s English Society to establish an Academy of English to combat the “dreadful devaluation and deterioration of education in our hectic, modern, digitalised world — we do desperately need some form of moderating body to set an accepted standard of good English.”
Martin Estinel, the prime advocate of the academy, hopes that it will achieve the eminence (largely illusory, I’m afraid) of its French counterpart. He said, “I would love the academy to have a Royal Charter.”
One can only image how a plenary session of such an academy would proceed. [Music fades out, then fades in, accompanied by sounds of murmuring and many voices.]
CHAIRMAN. Order, order. The Chair recognizes Mr. Wattles.
MR. WATTLES. Mr. Chairman, learned members, we have suffered the assaults on our noble language for far too long. Texting. [Calls of “Hear, hear”] Americanisms. [Applause] Shoddy grammar and shameless syntax. [Loud applause] The barbarians are at the gates. We may have surrendered the Empire, but we shall not, shall never, never, never surrender the empire of the English language. [Ovation]
But, Mr. Chairman, our best efforts will be so much well-meaning cant if we do not achieve enforcement of proper standards of English. We need laws with teeth in them. [Shouts of “Hear, hear”] A preposition at the end of a sentence or a split infinitive should bring the perpetrator no less than an hour in the pillory. [Applause] And an adolescent who uses “like” more than once in a sentence would learn from receiving a dozen of the best at the public whipping-post not to repeat that solecism! [Sustained applause]
MISS PRISCIAN: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, unless my ears have betrayed their function, I have just heard Mr. Wattles begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. [Sensation, confused murmuring] Mr. Chairman, none of us want to to speak ill of a colleague, but it is with regret that I am obliged to call for a vote of censure. [Groans]
MR. CASAUBON: Mr. Chairman, there are no defects in my ears, which have just descried Miss Priscian using “none” as a plural, so I must, more in sorrow than in anger, propose that the motion of censure be amended to include her within its sanctions. [Shouts of “Rubbish! Resign!”]
LADY MONTRACHET: Mr. Chairman, if Mr. Casaubon imagines that he can “descry” with his ears rather than his eyes, he appears to be as deplorably ignorant of anatomy and physiology as he is of language. [Shouts: “Harpy!” “Termagant!”] Moreover, had he even the elementary understanding of the necessity to use a possessive with a gerund, he would have referred to “Miss Priscian’s using.” I move to include him in an omnibus motion censure. [Sits as Mr. Wattles, Miss Priscian, and Mr. Casaubon all attempt to speak at once]
CHAIRMAN: Order! Order! [Bangs gavel] The academy will come to order! [Members standing and shouting, gesturing violently]
CHAIRMAN: Oh, bugger it. Adjourned.