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Monday, August 16 12:00 AM ET

ELSC Releases English 2.0

By Ian Toltz

London, England - At a recent press conference, the English Language Standards Commission (ELSC) unveiled plans for a new specification of the English language, designed to make ambiguity less prevalent.

Harold Hughes, head of the commission, said, "The English language is showing its age. It looks nothing like it did when it was first created, and it has been necessary to shoehorn into it terms and usages that scarcely could have been imagined even a hundred years ago.
It's a mess, and so we're proud to announce English 2.0!"

Among the controversial elements of English 2.0 are 'tag-style' adjectives and object-oriented nouns, both ideas borrowed from computing. Mr. Hughes explains, "It is not uncommon for someone to construct a valid sentence, yet that same sentence can take on a whole different meaning. Take, for example, the purple people eater. Is it a purple thing that eats people, or a thing that eats purple people? In English 2.0, the same idea would be expressed as <purple>eater.people</purple> and any fool can plainly see that this is a purple thing that eats people. Now, if I told you I wanted you to meet Tom, you might think I meant my brother Tom, but when I say 'I'd like you to meet dog.Tom,' it's <bloody>obvious</bloody> that I wish to introduce you to my <canine>companion</canine>."

Not everyone is happy about the new language specification. Many groups are protesting it as unnecessarily confusing or just plain unnecessary. Many are also dismayed to find the ELSC is avoiding backwards compatibility with the current English language.

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The woman in charge of implementation, Martha Giles, said, "It was a tough decision to make, but ultimately I feel it was the correct one. To make English 2.0 backwards compatible, we would have to compromise the strict rules that are the backbone of this plan.

Legislation has already passed and next year's kindergarten class, all education will take place in English 2.0. This will only affect those starting school in 2004 or later. Unfortunately, it means a large gap between their generation and the rest of society, but as adolescents reinvent the language every couple of years we doubt the impact will be large. Have you heard a teenager speak recently? It's FORTRAN to me."

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