It is the day before Thanksgiving. The world is settling in, thinking about turkey and ham and sweet potato casserole and dressing and all the other fixins. I am grateful about many things. But I’m also stubborn and contrary and difficult, and I detest Thanksgiving because of my distended family and the obligations, stress, and cooking that it entails. Like, I said, I am a thorny, willful woman. Instead of chatting on about T-Day, I am going to share my two cents (worthless as two pennies are today) about language and a few English things that please or annoy me.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know I mangle the langue all the time, but those are mostly deliberate errors and fit firmly into the stubborn, willful profile I’ve just provided.
Language has to change. It can’t stay hidebound and rule-bound, though some of us may want it to. Language has to be fluid, it has to evolve as culture evolves, it has to change, and even the *rules* of language have to change. With nearly 1.5 billion people speaking the English language, it must meet bend and grow to meet the needs of varying cultures and new inventions and the passage of time. Not too long ago, I read an article by a linguist on modern, English word usage and grammatical forms, and she was sharing about the great change of the English language and the horrors we are perpetrating on our language today. She was not a happy camper.
Do I like some of the recent changes? Ehhh, I’m not sure. I’m not going to gripe, mind you. If action needs to be taken, I’ll take a more determined stand than mere complaining. But I do miss some special things about language as it has evolved over the last few decades.
I was raised (in the dark ages, before computers in every classroom *gasp, gasp*) when kids were taught to diagram sentences. Every part of language had its own spot, its own direction, its own comfortable zone. It was a great way to show how language was put together, the way that words related to one another. Adverbs were the words that made sense of and explained and described the verbs. Simple. He ran quickly, she sat gracefully, the dog trotted slowly, the brown fox jumped quickly. Now, New York doesn’t want adverbs.
“No adverbs,” one editor told me. “Rewrite and remove nine-tenths of them.”
I miss adverbs from time to time. Yet, I must admit, that my writing takes on a speedier pace without them. Ly slows me down, slows my characters down, slows the pace of a building conflict down. Ly is closer to telling, farther from showing. I’ve learned to write without the little Ly, well…without so many of them, and its loss pushes me into the future and the changes of the language we can expect to see in the next century.
Thanks to the electronic age, I think words will be shortened, and the shorter spellings will be accepted into proper language. For instance, we all understand that, “No prob, bro,” means “No problem, brother.” I believe that the shortened versions will be accepted and will replace longer words. Does it bother me? Nope.
Prolly does bother me, and it’s used all the time. I like the word probably. I’ll keep using it. And there is no such word as *imformation* though the network newsperson used it last night. It’s *information*. I’ll take my stand on both of those and keep using the originals.
Another change to our language (and one I have decided I cannot and will not accept unless an editor forces the change down my throat) is the loss of the universal he. Back when women were less confident of their place in society, fighting to break through the glass ceiling, they burned bras and railed against the word he. “What about us? We count too! Say they! Use *they*!” So, now many writers mix the singular with the plural in ungainly sentences like, “Someone should dust the furniture, and they should vacuum too.” No. Not proper. (I cringe at thinking of myself as proper but just for this one small thing!) Someone should dust the furniture, and he should also vacuum. Being a totally emancipated female, the universal he doesn’t both me, and the idea of a man who cleans is immensely satisfying.
Anyone else want to avoid holiday thoughts for a while? While the turkey is cooking and the gravy is bubbling slowly (there’s an Ly!) and the pumpkin pies are cooling, do you have a language change you abhor, detest, revile?
Share with me!