You Can Do A Lot With Standard English

by Raja Thiagarajan

(This is a "placeholder" for my actual article, which is unfinished. I have posted this for the people who wanted to see my references -- RT)

Prologue: Dilbert, 10/25/1997, by Scott Adams

Shows Dilbert and a coworker talking. "I've been seeing a beautiful woman, but something came between us. ... Venetian blinds. Totally unforgiving."

Don't misunderstand me: I think Riddley Walker is a very good book, probably even a great one. But I'm not sure it was necessary for it to be presented in non-standard English. ...

From the Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles:

(to be added when I find the exact quote)

Part of the narration from The Twilight Zone episode "Two", written by Montgomery Pittman:

The time? Perhaps a hundred years from now. Or sooner. … The place? The signposts are in English, so that we may read them more easily. But the place is the Twilight Zone.

(emphasis added by Raja)

From Imperial Earth, by Arthur C. Clarke:

Chapter 5: "The Politics of Time and Space"
When only two Makenzies were talking together, their conversation was even more terse and telegraphic than when all three were present. Intuition, parallel thought processes, and shared experience filled in gaps that would have made much of their discourse wholly unintelligible to outsiders.
"Handle?" asked Malcolm.
"We?!" retorted Colin.
"Thirty-one? Boy!"
Which might be translated into plain English as:
"Do you think he can handle the job?"
"Have you any doubts that we could?"
"At thirty-one? I'm not so sure. He's only a boy."
"Anyway, we've no choice. This is a God-sent -- or Washington-sent -- opportunity that we can't afford to miss. [….]"

Raja's interprets this as Clarke pointing out that the Makenzies would probably speak in telegraphic English, and that he can easily write in telegraphic English, but that he does not want to inflict it on the reader ;-)

"Ralph 4F" by John Sladek. (Reprinted in The Best of John Sladek and elsewhere.)

"Ralph 4F" is a parody of Ralph 124C 41+, the famous novel by Hugo Gernsback. Gernsback wasn't a great writer, but he was the publisher and editor of Amazing Stories, the "first true SF magazine in English" (to quote the SF Encyclopedia). Science Fiction's major award, the Hugo, is named after him.

Anyway, here is the ending of Sladek's parody:

The baffled criminal was dragged away and beaten.
Doris and Ralph clasped hands; their eyes announced their engagement. "My name will be yours." she said, "4F Ralph. Like this:
"4 F R
"For ev-er!"
Ralph took up the game:
"U R Y I * 2 ¢ I M 4 U 4 F R
"You are why I start to sense I am for you forever!"
"X QQ me," she replied. "I ½ 2 P."