It turns out that the Australian version of English is the most highly evolved version on the planet, at least according to our understanding of a book. We breezed through a couple of chapters of John McWorther’s “The Power of Babel,” while eating scrambled eggs and bacon on Lygon Street last Saturday.
McWorther makes the valid point that language evolves. In practical terms, that means common usage literally erodes sounds and syllables from longer words. The Latin word for woman (femina) eventually becomes the French “femme” (sounds like fahm.)
And we always thought that the French were just verbally lazy. But this insight does help us in our running linguistic battle with out Australian colleagues. It occurs to us that the Australian habit of shortening most words and ending them with “y” or dropping the sounds of certain vowels is part of the evolution of the language. So there you go—Australia, at the vanguard of Anglo Saxon culture.
And how about some more on evolution? An evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, Oliver Curry, says that in 100,000 years or so, the human race will split into two sub-species. You’ll have, “a tall, slim, intelligent privileged class, and a short, squat, ugly, dim-witted race of servants.”
Sounds like “The Time Machine,” by H.G. Wells doesn’t it? Only Wells called the two groups the Eloi (the privileged class) and the Morlocks (the underprivileged class.) We have no idea how evolution is working these days, whether it’s selecting for traits that promote individual survival, or for species survival as others suggest.
But the convenient and artificial separation of the world into two groups reminds us of a few other useful quotations, “There are two types of people in the world, those that are Chuck Norris and those that are not.” Or this one, perhaps more useful, “There are two types of people in the world, those that believe in false dichotomies and those that don’t.”
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