Further to my comments about Mark Lawson and his programmes about European crime writing, and his expertise, which some readers of this blog thought inappropriate as he was not setting himself up as an expert (a view I cannot share), we now have Waldemar Januszczak as not only the presenter, but also the writer and director of the TV series on The Dark Ages.
I have no complaints about Mr (or is he Dr?) Januszczak as an art critic and historian, but someone really ought to have told him that an alphabet is not the same as a language. In the fourth programme in the series he referred to the futhark (which he mis-pronounced /ˈfʊthɑːk/ by the way) as a language. How can we linguists get it into the heads of non-specialists that this is not the case? A presenter of a serious programme who confused elements with molecules would be howled down – and quite rightly – but because everyone can speak a language, everyone is therefore considered to be an expert, and not to need any help with the terminology.
Someone in the BBC must have commissioned this series, but it is very clear that no one editing it was any more knowledgeable about language than the “expert” presenter.
Despite his name, by the way, Waldemar Januszczak is English.
Perhaps we need a media-friendly linguist (not an all-purpose ‘egghead’ like Stephen Fry or Melvyn Bragg) to put forward a plan for a sensible series on language. Are there any volunteers?