August 20th, 2010
Friday Four Cents: Chillax, Learn Some English
I’ve always thought that the internet was going to be the end of the English language. With all of the shorthand that floats around, all of the misused exclamation points, all of the sentences lacking proper structure, a little bit dies off. It turns out the powers-that-be have a hand in throwing our fair language to the LOLcats.
The Oxford English Dictionary is adding 2,000 new words to its contents for the upcoming edition. How did they decide on which words will be making their premier as official flag-bearers for our language? They trolled the newest books, magazines and internet, excuse me, interweb message boards for hunting grounds. You know what that means. That’s right. The dictionary will now be home to a host of new hybrid words and internet jargon.
Let’s take a look at your now acceptable vocabulary:
staycation (Really? Isn’t this just “calling in sick?” )
vuvuzela (A reasonable addition. )
defriend (Facebook verbs are unacceptable verbs.)
frenemy (How very OC of you…)
interweb (Only OK if used as “interwebz,” in my opinion.)
bromance (Almost understandable if used ironically.)
wardrobe malfunction (So 2004.)
social media (Agreed. But how about “socialist media?”)
tweetup (No. No. A million times, NO.)
buzzkill (If you add “buzzbirth” I might be ok with this.)
The thing that really bugs me about these additions (see: bromance, chillax, frenemy, etc.) is that they’re just colloquialisms; nothing more, nothing less. They live. They die. They get recycled in 30 years when a new generation has run out of creative spirit. This, in effect, is the devolution of the English language to include those who couldn’t care less about learning.
We are allowing speakers/writers to take on what lies beyond the 10th dimension just after learning Newton’s first law, but before becoming experts in black holes. You do not deserve the ability to create something new before exploring what has already existed. That would be like starting a website like The Loop Scoop without first knowing about 29-95 or Culturemap… wait a second, that’s a clumsy simile.
When we start making language – proper, accurate language – convenient, it begins to be a muddled calamity of non-words and shortcuts. Take the recent example of a discovery made by archaeologists studying dinosaurs. John Scannella and John R. Horner hypothesize that a Triceratops and Torosaurus are the same animal just at different stages in development. What are we to do? Even though Torosaurus is the adult version, we’re going to ditch that terminology and keep Triceratops because it is the more beloved of the two names. Convenient. Lazy. Boring.
If you think that I don’t support creative license in writing, you’re wrong. If you’ve read this site at all you know that we take liberties from time to time. There is room in the use of language to have fun and text its limits. But if you make those limits part of the body of words to choose from you’re doing two things: 1) you’re eliminating creativity from word usage by adding hopelessly ironic words like “bromance” to the dictionary and 2) you’re contributing to the use of lazy diction.
What about the words that don’t get enough usage anymore? Why can’t we give them the spotlight instead of “staycation?” Surely there are champions for that cause who will rise and fight against frenemies of the English language. We shall band together and take the Oxford English Dictionary’s headquarters by storm wielding strong, elegant diction as we are wont to do.
Speaking of, let’s start with the word “wont.”
Brandish your pitchforks. Light your torches. The English Language is going down. We can’t just sit around chillaxing and watch it happen. We’ll have a tweetup to organize our forces.