02 February, 2010

Linguistic Evolution

I believe in linguistic Darwinism. The "survival of the fittest" ideology applies profoundly to our modern tongue, at least with English. The colloquialisms, faux spellings, and litany of grammar derailments that become mainstream, through extensive use and social media publication, ensure than language is morphing exactly how people want it to.

And people want to be lazy.

Not all of us, of course. In fact, I am one of those that absolutely revel in correct placement of commas and apostrophes, and who once recommended someone for hire based entirely on their ability to use a semicolon properly. (This is no small feat.) But while I'm a so-called stickler, and have been known to edit my friends and loved ones -- something I have stopped doing, due to unpopular feedback I received -- I actually like seeing new words, new ways to use old ones, and new schools of thought on linguistic evolution. Of course, I have my preferences, and my list of words that I dislike. For example, I really loathe making nouns into verbs. When copyediting for Amazon, I shuddered each time I read "gift" as a verb. To gift someone with a product is just silly. But people use it, and, mark my words, it will be a proper verb in Merriam-Webster in no time.

Likewise, I've seen a few occasions where people have taken a verb and made it into a noun. The most recent occurrence I've noticed is with an advertisement for the "Droid Does". The "Droid Does" is the name of a smartphone from Verizon. Only it's not so smart, as it doesn't know the difference between a noun and a verb.

"Droid does. iPhone doesn't." is a lovely catch phrase by itself. But to call the entire product by what it is and does is either asinine or brilliant, and I honestly can't see the logic in the latter. I do, however, commend them for trying to think outside of standard product-naming conventions. But, unfortunately, it just makes those of us with an ounce of linguistic integrity want to poke ourselves in the eye in order to keep from reading such language violations in the future. (Maybe if we close our eyes, or better yet, poke them out, it will go away.)

I support growth in language. A stagnant language is exactly that. Stagnant. I admit that, in personal missives, I let all kinds of language fly. Not only that, but I (*gasp*) frequently forget to spellcheck. (Mainly because spellchecker has failed me on numerous occasions and I honestly cannot rely on to capture things like misplaced words, or swapping one word for another.) I often type so fast, I type "that's" for "thanks". Embarrassing, especially for an editor, but my friends and colleagues know that, when it really counts, I can be sure to find someone else's typo in the office down the hall.

I also enjoy writing like I talk. And somehow, like other people talk. I like writing in a mild Southern accent that I don't have, but greatly enjoy. I think American colloquialisms are fabulous and rich. My boyfriend once said to his fifth-grade pupils "You can absolutely use the word "ain't," as long as you know the grammatically proper way to say "it isn't" in standard English first."

My sentiments exactly.

3 comments:

  1. Go and get a copy of 'Dark Wisdom', and my story Mopleoli. You'll like it ;-)

    I'm both a stickler, and somebody who accepts that all those linguistic absolutes I love are the result of hundreds of generations of laziness. If Shakespeare and Chaucer hadn't both been lazy and brilliant, half of my vocabulary would vanish. Language is almost as alive as you and I - it evolves, has personality, evolutionary dead ends, and so much more.

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  2. Excellent post!

    I stumbled onto this and thought of you. :-)

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon

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  3. Um, oops. Anonymous is actually Maria, and I just figured out how to show my name.

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