The European Commission recognises the pre-eminence of English as an international language for the purposes of business, commerce and cultural exchanges. However, there are some areas that are of concern to the Commission, particularly the continuing use of Imperial weights and measures, which have no place in the modern world and must be expunged from the language. We therefore intend to put in place the following remedial measures (offending words have been italicised):
1. Parents will no longer be allowed to name their male children Miles.
2. Use of the following idiomatic expressions will be forbidden: to inch towards; pouring a quart into a pint pot; pint-sized; a miss is as good as a mile; if you give [a person] an inch they will take a yard; to foot the bill; miles away.
3. The spelling of English place and other names ending in –ton must be changed to –tonne (e.g., Evertonne, Brightonne, Southamptonne, Prestonne).
4. Radio stations broadcasting within the EU will no longer be allowed to play the following records: Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford; Chain Gang by Sam Cooke; Eight Miles High by the Byrds; I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers; Me and Julio down by the School Yard by Paul Simon; I Can See for Miles by the Who; 500 Miles by the Hooters; Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please by Splodgenessabounds; any recording of A Bushel and a Peck from the musical Guys and Dolls; anything by Miles Davis, John Miles, Rod Stewart, the Yardbirds or the Nine Inch Nails.
5. Cinemas in the EU will no longer be allowed to show the following films: The Green Mile; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; God’s Little Acre; Steelyard Blues; My Left Foot; any film starring Vera Miles, Sarah Miles or Gregory Peck.
6. Although William Shakespeare was an Englishman, he is now considered to be of international importance, so some changes to the text of his plays is necessary. We understand that changing ‘inch’ to ‘2.54 centimetres’ will disrupt the rhythm of the verse, so we are proposing that the following extracts be removed in their entirety:
Gloucester: The trick of that voice I do well remember;
Is’t not the King?
Lear: Ay, every inch a king!
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my
Imagination: there’s money for thee.
King Lear, Act IV, Scene 6.
Bassanio: Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more
Than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two
Grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you
Shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you
Have them, they are not worth the search.
The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene 1.
Duke of Venice: I am sorry for thee. Thou art come to answer
A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
Uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.
Portia: Tarry a little. There is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood.
The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.”
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh,
But in the cutting it if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are by the laws of Venice confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.
ibidem, Act IV, Scene 1.
Hamlet: …The dram of evil
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal.
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 4.
Hamlet: There’s letters seal’d, and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d
They bear the mandate, they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard, and ’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon.
ibidem, Act III, Scene 4.
Gonzalo: Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an
Acre of barren ground, long heath, brown furze, any
Thing. The wills above be done! But I would fain
Die a dry death.
The Tempest, Act I, Scene 1.
Ariel: Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
ibidem, Act I, Scene 2.
Lady Capulet: We will have vengeance for it, fear thou not.
Then weep no more. I’ll send to one in Mantua,
Where that same banished runagate doth live,
Shall give him such an unaccustomed dram
That he shall soon keep Tybalt company.
Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene 5.
Romeo: …Let me have
A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear
As will disperse itself through all the veins
That the life-weary taker may fall dead,
And that the trunk may be discharged of breath
As violently as hasty powder fired
Doth hurry from the fatal cannon’s womb.
ibidem, Act V, Scene 1.
Oberon: Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II, Scene 1.
Prince Harry: …But, sweet Ned, to sweeten which name ofAn international team of experts is currently scrutinising all of Shakespeare’s plays to determine whether other extracts need to be excised.
Ned, I give thee this pennyworth of sugar, clapped
Even now into my hand by an under-skinker, one that
Never spake other English in his life than ‘Eight
Shillings and sixpence’ and ‘You are welcome,’ with
This shrill addition, ‘Anon, anon, sir! Score a pint
Of bastard in the Half-Moon,’ or so….
Falstaff: Peace, good pint-pot. Peace, good tickle-brain.
Henry IV Part 1, Act II, Scene 4.
7. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is no longer a recognised tongue-twister.
Should we be worried?