So incommunicado Mr Zuckerberg!

My best British mate, Dave, dropped me an article on Saturday from The Telegraph in relation to the theme of social media following in Chaucer’s footsteps with evolving the English language.  Here’s the link to it:

In my mind I can hear the response from friends in South London now:

“So, well, wot are ya bleedin’ well tryin’ ta say, guvnor?”

Followed shortly after by:

“Nah wot I mean??”


Meanwhile, somewhere either to the far West of England as well as up North, I can hear a more measured, clipped response something along the following lines of:

“T’ain’t obvious why “so”, but it’s there.”


While those of us not familiar with dialects might get bemused by them, witnessing the development of them is something as age old as Chaucer – like The Telegraph article rightly alludes to. 

However I think they may have overlooked (conveniently or otherwise) that it was in times of trouble, when “the peasants revolted” in 1381, that the multi-lingual Mr. Chaucer (or Sir Geoff, as I like to call him) would have heard and become most conscious of the language they used – both pleasant and unpleasant – as they marched below his very door in Aldgate, London.

This was because these people were not “peasants” (as The Crown and Cloth perhaps labelled them), but some of the first skilled workers of independent means – and they would have been in search of tax collectors (as Sir Geoff was then) to berate (and possibly hang or behead) them for the ignominy of the way that the king had allowed these public servants to collect taxes from them. On top of that, they were most likely also not happy that these taxes would have been for allowing the king to wage wars in France and elsewhere which they could most likely have felt were nothing to do with them – and while possibly the king let some of his more powerful and influential barons get off scot-free from any duty (fiscal or otherwise).

So – does this scenario also sound a little familiar to our times now? Yes, Gary Barlow could be considered a modern day baron of sorts – but fortunately The Crown has come to its senses (at this point in time, at least) in not choosing to punish the underdog at the expense of its lackeys….

However, there was another thing which Chaucer was very clever in doing, rather than berating the peasants for their bad language (as Norman French and Latin were the formal languages of the time).  That was in seeking to take a different tack to help amend the situation between The Crown and The Commoners. 

In fact, it was not so much a tack, as a track. Coz he chose to walk with some of them to Canterbury, along with a fellow (unnamed) knight of the realm and a few disparate members of the cloth.

Moreover, Chaucer also gave everyone an opportunity to have  their stories heard too. In their very own language, what’s more – being such the diplomat, he was (as Yoda would put it). This was through writing them up as a kind of journal, complete with the best of the travellers’ short stories, anecdotes, poems and prayers.  Which he simply named The Canterbury Tales – and as one might write a blog-site with such on it nowadays (mightn’t one?)

So (and note the “so”), it was probably to the chagrin of the court when these were (most likely) read out at that time – as the members of the court and the cloth present would have had to hear them in the language of the people. Namely,  “English” as this newish mottley language was called. Indeed, see the picture below for indications of their reaction:

Chaucer reciting his works at the court of Richard II

Chaucer reciting his works at the court of Richard II

So I question:  how different now is seeing further development of the English language on Facebook, and even through how it’s used by its creator himself – or on the street or through text messages, for that matter – to that which Chaucer would have noted and witnessed first-hand during The Peasant’s Revolt, as well as written up (albeit poetically) from his experiences on the road to Canterbury?

And sew, if you’ve had enough of “so” as Mr Zuckerberg might say, we will next move on to “la, tea, doe” – and back to the English of the English (or even “British”, as it were), which will bring us back to…..

P.S. Apologies to the original readers of this post, as I decided to split my experiences on this hemi-spherically – as I trust you will note my next post (which is slightly enhanced from what I had all lumped in this one anyway)


About Matt's Tale

A New Age travel writer, seeing the old in the new and the bold in the blue - but mainly seeking the freedom to be, as much as to do. His tales come from meeting modern day travellers following their likes of King Arthur to Geoffrey Chaucer, leading him on to places considered "Camelot" and different ways to see Canterbury and cafes a lot. Email: Twitter: @mattstale
This entry was posted in Australia, Chaucer, England, Language, London, MacKay, New Zealand, Northern NSW, Queensland and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to So incommunicado Mr Zuckerberg!

  1. Pingback: Accepting the Vegemite Sandwich | mattstale

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