Barry Speker's Comment

Issue 72

Was this what we were waiting for all these months? It arrived on Sunday 14 August. A crowd of 50,673 unmasked supporters watching Newcastle United lose 4-2 at home to West Ham. NB: Chris and I were two of the few in masks.

There was the excitement of a live match, Newcastle winning the first half and the England manager attending to see the talent on display. In fact Gareth was there to watch his godson Freddie Woodman making his premier league debut in goal for Newcastle – and Freddie nearly saved a penalty. A long hard season ahead but no pandemic as an excuse for not watching at SJP. Our country’s prominence in the world no longer derives from aspirations to remain a world power or our colonial legacy but from maintenance of English as the world’s leading language, our greatest contribution to the world. Yet it seems that the creative contribution of ‘British English’ speakers to the vocabulary is diminishing and giving way to linguistic innovators in international call centres, technology and film franchises. A report entitled ‘The Rise and Fall of England as a Word Generator’ finds our contribution is under 10% and falling. It is noted that the UK is now only the sixth largest country in which English is a common language – behind America, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Philippines. Our language is being absorbed into ‘global English’ with a one million word vocabulary and perhaps the need for a lexicon in youthspeak. It is predicted that British English will survive in three places – the BBC World Service, the City of London and Buckingham Palace. A storm has arisen alleging cultural appropriation of the ‘Indian’ curry. Chaheti Bansal (27), a Californian food blogger said in a video viewed 3.6 million times that the word ‘curry’ should be ‘unlearned’; That it became prominent during British rule in India, an anglicised form of kari (sauce in Tamil), and was then adopted by the British East India Company. In fact by the mid 18th century curries were being served in the coffee houses and restaurants of London. Queen Victoria was partial to a chicken curry with Dahl and pilau and in 2001, Robin Cook referred to chicken tikka masala as a true British national dish. Ms Bansal may not be familiar with Becky Sharp in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, tricking Jos into eating a fiercely hot curry saying ‘I am sure everything must be good that comes from India’. Indian food has infinite variety as I know from visiting many areas in India. The loose use of the word curry as a generic description may do no credit to this variety but it has been adopted with enthusiasm and affection by the many thousands regularly deciding whether to go out for a ‘curry or a Chinese’. Do allegations of prolonging the evils of colonialism require us to talk of going out for ‘Indian cuisine’. Must the Gosforth Curry Club change its name to the ‘Gosforth South Asian Cuisine Club’? The superb performance of Team GB in the Tokyo Olympics is rightly celebrated. It is the trigger for similar financial support for the Paris Olympics in 2024 before which there may be a re-branding to Team UK in order to strengthen the Union – how about it Nicola? At Eton, there may be concern, because their playing fields did not yield any medal winners for the first time in three decades. Old Etonians had won medals in the sitting-down sports (rowing, cycling, sailing and equestrianism) for at least seven Olympics in a row. They are obviously spending too much time producing politicians and Prime Ministers. The new freedom and hot weather enabled the grandchildren’s visit to the North East to include South Shields beach and funfair, Colmans Seafood Temple, The Sill and the Roman Wall at Steel Rigg, as well as the promised trip to St Mary’s Lighthouse. Another memorable staycation.

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