By by Sir William Jones.

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As Lewis put it, “most people are obviously far more anxious to express their approval and disapproval of things rather than to describe them. ”3 The changes that Lewis referred to here, and in many other instances in his book, could be seen to constitute decay. It is a case of words losing their precise meaning, or of words that convey an exact idea being replaced, gradually, by words that do not. It is one thing to say that a man is handsome or a woman is beautiful; it is quite another to specify exactly why.

There are also auxiliary verbs, which attach themselves to main verbs to provide variations of tense (“he has gone” or “we shall overcome”), to describe capability, compulsion or permission (“he can swim”, “he must swim” or “he may swim”), possibility (“he might swim”) or the passive voice (“he was beaten”, “she will be found”, “they were being overlooked”). These are the main types that should concern us, though the science of linguistics knows many more, such as catenative verbs – the technical term for those verbs that can only be used when followed by another verb (“he hoped to pass his exams” or “she longed to marry him”) – and compound or phrasal verbs, such as to go into or to take over.

Politics and specific policy also, indirectly, distort language. A determination to dilute the teaching of English and of foreign languages in our schools has made recent generations of schoolchildren insensitive to language and particularly to its nuances. There is no serious attempt to teach grammar in most of our schools today, and there has not been for some time. There has been no serious attempt for decades to teach children why words mean what they do, and what certain words actually mean.

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