Rant on “Ruining the English Language”

All those crazy kids on the internet, jibbering in text speak and handing in essays with hashtags in them, are a menace to the venerable old mother tongue, the tongue we all speak and most of the world speaks… a language known as English. A respected language that is beginning its slow slide into decline, because of the ignorance of grammar, complete unawareness of sentence structure, and the mangling of words. When “lol” is used commonly by the masses, is it not a sign of society’s decay?

Wait, wait, wait, back up a moment. Is anyone seriously nodding along here?

This is the worst kind of paranoia, technophobia – nostalgia for a past world where grammar teachers stared down through their spectacles at you and made you write “do not end a sentence with a preposition” fifty time on the blackboard.

How on earth is the internet ruining English? Just because English might possibly turn out to be different? Just because it might follow a different set of rules than the archaic ones you grew up with, the language is ruined? What, you really think the language they used fifty years ago was orderly and rational, and, thus, worth keeping?

Look, the internet understands each other. We might type LOL, and TTYL (which are ancient abbreviations in internet time by now, by the way), and make jokes referring to memes (“In a CAVE. With a box of SCRAPS!”), but do you think in the least that we don’t understand each other? Or, that, because you have lost all ability to understand us, the words we use should be regarded with scorn and disgust? If we want to use new words – make up new words, throw useless grammar rules out the window, try out new grammar rules and see if we can’t have fun bending the rules inside-out – why should we be barred from doing with English what English has always done – evolve?

Why should our tech-obsessed crowd be barred from something tech does so incredibly well – create?

Oh, but we won’t be able to get jobs. We won’t know the proper place to use text speak, and we might use it in places where the established rules for centuries has dictated that we write in complete sentences, with subjects and predicates. We might look stupid, because we veered too far away from being formal.

Fine, you can clearly see I’m willing to bend. I can spout out as many paragraphs of the most sleep-inducing, formal, mostly-grammatical-correct writing as you could require. I’ve always BELIEVED in writing so others can understand, and if the other does not want to be presented with the language of the internet at a certain point in time, I will refrain from using it. I adapt. I change my tone of voice depending on the context and circumstances.

But if other people don’t, will the pillars of our society come crumbling down?

If you hired someone who described themselves as “social media savvy,” would it inevitably mean that person will be unable to cope with the job?

Because people use emoticons, or decide not to capitalize words, does that in fact mean they are functionally illiterate? Even when others understand them?

Let’s stop wailing about the decline of English. Let’s stop pretending young people don’t know how to communicate, just because they communicate in a different way. Let’s not always act as if the sky is falling down.

English will change. It might look a little more chaotic, or maybe it will just find a new set of rules. Either way, it’ll survive. It lasted for hundreds of years without any standardized spellings of any words. And life went on.

Relax. We’ll survive.

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2 Comments

Filed under -- ON WRITING (well?)

2 responses to “Rant on “Ruining the English Language”

  1. Written with Ommmph! Well done Harma.

    I wonder if our usage of words can represent our inner inclinations or desires. It can be unfortunate to see someone who has no intellectual curiosity, who doesn’t hunger for a deeper understanding of what is, where it came from. Sometimes, our language choice represents this internal laziness. Certainly, endless moaning about the good ol days doesn’t contribute anything either. Think there’s a correlation?

    • Good thought. I think casual language CAN reflect intellectual laziness. I’d agree with that. At the same time, casual language can also be immensely creative and communicate a lot – sometimes in a way formal language can’t replicate (because of the distance formal language can create between the writer and the reader). So using casual language without experimenting with the extent it can be used to communicate can be lazy – but using (and learning to use) casual language well is not necessarily :)

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