Yesterday I finally got round to visiting the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library. (The website also has an associated blog.)
The exhibition is excellent, well-organized and full of interest. Quite apart from the linguistic information it offers, it is fascinating to be able to see the actual Lindisfarne Gospels, an original manuscript of Beowulf, Caxton’s printing of the Canterbury Tales, a Shakespeare quarto, and — among more modern treasures — John Betjeman’s heavily revised manuscript of How to Get On in Society (‘Phone for the fish-knives, Norman’). David Crystal gives an introduction on a video loop. Over headphones I listened again to Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick’s polari spiel from Round the Horne.
Among the items of phonetic interest are a leaden Punch joke about h-dropping by the lower classes and an excerpt from the hard-to-believe 1929 recommendations of the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English.
The exhibition continues at the British Library until 3 April. Admission is free.
Happy New Year to all. This blog will be suspended during the whole of the month of January 2011. Next posting: 1 February.