A correspondent writes to ask, having seen a newspaper listing for the new BBC4 TV series 'It's only a theory', whether I am the 'David Crystal' listed in this week's episode (being broadcast at 10 pm on the 13th October). I had to think for a moment, as the programme was recorded months ago; but yes, it is me, and I have a certificate to prove it.
It's an interesting idea. They got various academics to present and justify their 'theory' to a team of three (led by Andy Hamilton) in front of a TV audience. At the end, each member of the team decided whether the academic had made his/her case. I defended the proposition that 'texting is good for the English language', and managed to persuade two of the three that this was so. (I would have persuaded all three, but Andy felt I was being too enthusiastic about it!) They ceremoniously stamped a certificate with the word 'Approved'. And they gave me a souvenir, in the form of a pseudo-Scrabble game with all the vowels left out.
It was good fun, and, on the day I was there for the recording, I very much enjoyed watching the others who had to defend their propositions - one was Stanley Wells, arguing that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. It's a strange rhetorical exercise, having to reduce sometimes quite complex points to the bare minimum, and in a way that will get an audience on your side. Bit like debating, really. They recorded about 20 minutes worth of material per person, and I imagine will use less than ten, in the transmission, so it'll be interesting to see one's already pared-down arguments pared down even further. Maybe they'll just leave out my vowels.