I got to appreciate the scale of the problem a few years ago when I was writing A Little Book of Language, aimed at young teenagers. To check I'd got the level right, I had my first draft read by a 12-year-old. She gave me a right beating up! 'Underline any bit you find unclear', I told her. And she did. She drew my attention to words and content that I had never dreamt would cause a problem. For example, in my chapter on professional pseudonyms, I had included examples like John Wayne. She underlined John Wayne. When I asked her why, she said she'd never heard of him. I had to find different examples (eg Eminem).
I see the Lingo team will be at the Language Show in Olympia, London, 16-18 October (stand 804). Well worth a visit, I'd've thought, if you are in the area. But if you're not, I would recommend anyone who's involved with teaching language (or languages) to youngsters to take a look at Lingo. I don't normally use my blog to advertise things, but I have to make an exception in this case, as it's the kind of product I've long been hoping to see getting into schools. It's visible online at lingozine.com.
And now, back to a blogless life, caused by a killer project - a dictionary. There's nothing like dictionary compilation to take you away from the real world. It's not like any other kind of writing, where you are in control of your content. In a dictionary, the content controls you, in the form of the alphabet. The object in question will be out in March, The Oxford Dictionary of Shakespearean Pronunciation. It's at the copy-editing stage, and next month I have to record the audio version and soon after go through the proofs. Believe me, there's nothing more blog-destroying than a set of dictionary proofs.