Tuesday, September 5, 2023

It's Okay To Mess With Our Language?



Is the English language going to hell or is there a linguistic elitism expressed by aging gatekeepers that should be ignored? It could be a case of both.  

On the one hand, we must acknowledge that language evolves. New words are coined, old ones get dropped. It happens naturally. Eventually, the dictionaries catch up. The same goes with how we use existing words. Over time, we re-define their usage in ways that were unexpected. Linguistic curmudgeons shit a brick over the lack of conformity to established standards, but they fail to realize that their standards have and continue to shift.  

Over the centuries, the spelling, punctuation, meanings of, and creation of words have all undergone great revisions. 

A new book, Like Literally Dude: Arguing For The Good in Bad English, by Valerie Fridland, shows us that exciting new language frontiers are not evidence of impending demise, but rather a natural expansion and continuation of the ever-changing language evolution. As a result, despite our criticisms of bad grammar, newly-minted words, and the abuse of existing words, we should embrace the dynamics of our language. Further, she makes a bold claim that it is mainly the young, the uneducated, and females that cause most of the changes, and says we should thank -- and not blame-- them. 

Language, above, all else, needs to be functionally clear and provide a means to communicate efficiently, accurately, consistently, and easily. But we get stumped by text messages that violate everything we know, love, and appreciate about our language.  

The author points out that English was free to develop unhindered by ideas of how it should be until the advent of many dictionaries and guides came out in the 18th century that purified and enshrined spelling and definitions. She says, “But rest assured that much of what we find conservative and formal today…were once trendy and even colloquial, and now we hardly notice them.” 

Language seems to come down to this: Once everyone makes the same abuse or error, it becomes normalized and accepted. So, if you ain’t like, good with dat, someone is LOL, bitch.  

“Language constantly shows us that it was born to change,” says the author. “Despite our firm but misguided belief in ‘right” or ‘wrong’ ways of speaking we have all been subject to the exact same forces that have brought our least favorite tics not only to see the light of day, but to thrive and expand.” 

Language changes with the times -- new inventions, technology, revised political landscapes, and rotating social norms clearly influence how we communicate, how we use words, and what words come into existence while others fall out of favor. This means we will always see change from the youngest generation and how they see things in new ways while normalizing new things. Men change language through war, sports, and business while women change it through social interactions, parenting, and fashion. Of course, there is a growing crossover to these gender norms and gender itself is becoming an obliterated identification marker. 

The book noted how studies showed that when there is a pause before a term or thought is stated in a speech or conversation, there is a greater recall of that term. So, all of those times when we use um, or ahhh, it is not really a bad thing. Yet, we’ve been told for years not to do that. Who knew? 

Fridland certainly makes the case that language has always been transformed by new patterns and styles and that we shouldn’t freak out when we hear something that doesn’t sound right. Today’s seemingly wrong way to say something will quite possibly be the established norm tomorrow.  

“We forget we were speaking to each other centuries before we were reading, writing, or sending texts, and we did pretty well at organizing and advancing long before prescriptive conventions came around. Indeed, most of what we tend to think of as language “rules” were actually just social preferences, decided on by those invested in codifying English usage so that it could be transmitted across time and space,” says the author. “A noble and necessary aim, to be sure, but over time we have confused such externally imposed standards-often modeled on the model of Latin and based on the speech of the upper crust-with inherent goodness and correctness.”


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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on LinkedIn. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog, and El Chapo, a pug rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.4 million pageviews. With 4,600+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by www.WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: www.linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.  



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