It’s English, Jim, But Not As We Know It…

It’s a great source of humour and interest being a writer in a country that uses English as its language of business, but which has such a large number of different nationalities speaking it.

You can often guess where a writer on a newspaper comes from, not by their byline, but by the style of their language and their use of syntax. This is not a criticism, just an observation.

(Some British tabloids can seem like Shakespeare in comparison – #justsaying)

Something I always ask when taking on a commission is : do you want English English or American English? This does vary from publisher to publisher, publication to publication and in some publications, line to line.

As an editor myself, I receive pieces to sub that are almost perfect. Maybe I’ll tweak a capital letter here, a semi colon there. The emotions I feel, when reading a beautifully written commissioned feature, range from gratitude and relief to all-out hero-worship.

And then there are those that are annihilated beyond recognition, possibly by Google Translate, into an approximation of an English from another planet.  For all the sense they make, they might as well have been written in tongues.

Recently I was asked to subedit a book. Each long, long chapter was written by a different writer  – I use that title loosely – in both Arabic and English; a wordsmith for whom Arabic was a first language and English was unknown.

The subject of the book was Plastic Art. I’m sure in the right hands this is a subject which can fascinate. I’d like to say that after reading this book I know what it is. But that would be a lie. I did google it after reading three chapters to check it wasn’t about engineering or construction – the title of one chapter alone (as it was written on the page) was enough to confuse me:

 Traditional loads and differential regulation support the classical rule.

 But it was catchy and I was hooked, so I started to read.

The first sentence (exactly as it was printed on the page) went like this:

The fascination of Diwani ,  Simple Diwani, Kufi and Thuluth font is embodied in the precise and organized installation process within the area, with spontaneous respect to some of its rules in the achievements of Saud Shaker Abdullah Khan, the plastic arts painter, indicating that the creator’s brush is trapped in the classical field although the aesthetic functioning  of colors and overwhelming areas spontaneously and automatically.

I have to confess. I laughed. A little wildly. With more than a hint of hysteria. This was only the first sentence of a two-page feature and there were 48 features in all. But maybe, if I read on, I would uncover the meaning.

The traditional loads, lining, fonts, shapes and the differential organizing process are elements support the classical rule of the Arabic calligraphy more than the plastic art. Hat results in that this framing comes in the artistic experience of the creator Saud Shaker Abdullah Khan that heads to the contemporary abstraction with classical uses of letters.

To be fair there were one-syllable words I recognised.  But the meaning eluded me still. Undeterred, I continued:

But it is such an experience that has intersections, even if it is in a charm plastic arts position, its aim is commitment to restrictions, and that is what hides the artist’s self-project, as it is hard to mix between sentimental repercussions paradox with their aesthetic charm studded with the ecstatic of cultural heritage which has original antique Miniatures and between a repository of contemporary shapes and colors armed with modern techniques.

 The point was in there somewhere. It had to be. But the words were speechless with laughter:

‘We may appear,’ they snorted weakly, ‘by the cut of our jib, to resemble the first global lingua franca of communications, science, information technology, business, seafaring, aviation, entertainment, radio and diplomacy, but, SUCKER, you’ve been had. There are approximately 375 million people in this world who speak English as their first language. Our author is not one of them.’

And that’s when I knew what I had to do. A mild subbing was too good for these linguistic phonies. They were going to be flogged within an inch of their lives.

With renewed vigour I googled Plastic Art and reread the text from the beginning. I grabbed each sentence by its long and windy parts, saved the smallest, least offensive word and expunging its offensive brothers, created a sentence that made sense. At least to me.

So with apologies to art critics and Plastic Artists everywhere, here’s my version of the above:

 A Critical Reading of the Works of the Plastic Arts Painter

Saud Shaker Abdullah Khan,

In the words of Danielle Simpson

His fascination for Diwani, Simple Diwani, Kufi and Thuluth fonts is embodied in plastic arts painter, Saud Shaker Abdullah Khan’s precise and organised strokes.  The creator’s brush supports the classical rule of Arabic calligraphy rather than adhering to the techniques of plastic art. He creates contemporary abstraction with a classical use of letters. But there are overlaps. The aesthetic charm combines his cultural heritage, using original antique miniatures, with contemporary shapes and colours and modern techniques.