The Flexibility of Language June 14, 2011Posted by Lauren Cooke in Wordy Business.
Tags: evolution of language, flexibility, language, words
I am, by definition, a liberal person. I am relatively hard to phase, generally hard to stress (especially if things REALLY aren’t worth stressing over), difficult to really disgust. I have my passions, and my foibles, but I am up to a point happy to take life as it comes without getting worked up or upset with little insignificant things along the way.
One of the things that doesn’t really bother me is language. I’m not a grammar nazi, or a written word traditionalist. I can get annoyed if a word is used incorrectly (your and you’re, for example, has to remain different as it totally changes the meaning), but much of the time I am happy to see language grow and evolve over time. The lovely Roisin wrote this week about her issues with people who write noone rather than no one or nobody (which is just what got me thinking about all this) - but I see this as an obvious next step. Is there any point in forcing these words to remain separate when their usage and frequency of use suggests that perhaps compounding them works? For me, I would be (and am!) happy to see this happen, as it suggests the continuing refinement and development of English as life moves on and language changes.
You see, the evolution and flexibility of the written and spoken word are what seem to me one of the greatest wonders of literature. The fact that an entire nation can move from Shakespearean turn of phrase to tlking in txt spk in what is evolutionarily the blink of an eye excites and inspires me. Nothing is static, nothing is boring – the stuffy is always overcome, the impractical tramped down in preference of the best phrase, the best word.
People worry that the huge steps taken in technology over the past decade have accelerated this process. Phonetic spelling was thought of as a threat to spelling and accuracy, symbols have taken over from intonation and subtlely. However I argue that in actual fact this hasn’t happened. Instead, English has found a way to balance the needs of an internet and immediate-information fed generation with the feelings and meaning of a beautifully crafted language. In actual fact, the super-shortening of words has faded out a little, becoming replaced with a happy kind of middle ground that means I don’t feel guilty for using lol or tho, but I don’t have to decipher a complex mix of words and letters either, or bcum a mmbr of d txt spk gnr8n.
When the needs must, we can convey a complex message in 140 characters or less. We can abbreviate, respell, play around the with building blocks of our foremost means of communication with gay abandon. Yet, at the same time, writing has not become less passionate. In fact, people are still creating beautiful works of literature, breathtaking sonnets, heartbreaking stanzas. It is this flexibility in the way language is used that makes me so happy, so chuffed to see that communication has adapted so neatly to the needs of a new world.
Golly, I do love words. Don’t you?