The written word

I love the English language, in all of its frustrations, contradictions, and deficiencies. I think that it supplies a diversity of terminology that encourages a creativity of thought and discussion; and that adds a colourful nature to speech. This is why I believe that proper speech, at least minimally, needs to be maintained. I am not going to cue a long rant about how twitter and social networking sites are destroying the english language, because I don’t believe that to be the entire truth, although it likely does play a part. But, language has exploited short form for centuries-it is not a new phenomenon. What makes this version of short-form different from its predecessors is that it is commonly known. If I say “lol”, or “rof”, there are very few people who are unaware of what I am saying. In the past; authors, philosophers, and journalers would utilize short-hand for their own purposes, but more often than not, it was their own shorthand, not necessarily known to others.

I, in fact, do not have a problem with the development of new words. That is a necessary part of language, which is always growing and expanding. What I struggle with is that words are often replacing, instead of supplementing, old words. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading old texts is the plethora of lexicon that is utilized in painting imagery within the reader’s consciousness. Words are served to the reader like delicious hors d’oeuvres, giving the reader a taste of depth and connectivity to a greater world of language and thought. The ideas are the meat, but meat is bland and dry without having a partnering flavour that enhances the pleasures of dining. When new words enter our common speech, we need to always keep in mind that they are the newest to join the fold, and that our language is supplied with an enduring pool of historically significant words that add depth to our discussions. Beyond this, there always must be room for the utilization of academic speech. Often this comes into play in our writing-I believe that a gentleman should be cautious not to misuse language in writing-whether to a friend or a business contact. I write letters to my friends via email, and I generally try to uphold grammatical and orthographic rules while lending my letters an authenticity and genuine attachment to the recipient. Many people perceive the use of traditional-style language as clunky and inefficient. inefficient-well, this may be true at times. But clunky? If the writer is truly attempting to be proficient in the craft of writing, clunky cannot be a charge levied. And again, I return to a concept that seems to be emerging into a theme in my musings-life is better when you work for it. If writing a letter is easy-where you are able to simply fall onto easy cookie-cutter language, than you will find your conversations remain at a very minimal level, without any difficult questions being asked or answered. We have a language designed by history for philosophy and thought. We must begin to utilize it again for this purpose, and not neglect the hard questions of our world.

ImageAs a final note-I wanted to mention that I find it to be never appropriate for a gentleman to swear or curse. You should not do something to offend someone, and if you can avoid doing something that is offensive, then you should do so. There are many people in this world who are offended by swearing. Nobody can stop you from cursing, but you can show a respectfulness and integrity by restricting yourself. If you practice this even around those who do swear, you will find that they respect you more for your ability to articulate your meaning without the use of crass terms. Beyond this, many curse words are designed to offend-they make references to sexual acts/parts, or specifically target and ridicule the Christian religion. This is offensive, so don’t do it.

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2 thoughts on “The written word

  1. I have gone a bit tangential from your post Mr Gentleman, Sir, but one of the things i least like about ‘textspeak’ is the very fact that it is language without nuance. Over the centuries, language got richer and more complex, now we are cutting it down. Having spent millenia crawling out of the primeval slime, and eventually developing language, I sometimes feel we are busily trying to return to the primeval slime, with rich language being reduced to a series of meaningless grunts and like, like, you know, awesome! (Rofls at own weak attempts at humour, lol)

    • I hesitantly agree with you, although I am trying to be cautious in renouncing the movement towards abbreviations for fear of committing ad ignorantiam, since I am not fully convinced-and indeed have no reason to be fully convinced, that abbreviations and language simplification necessitates language reduction. I suppose what I am trying to articulate is that it is difficult to take a moral high-ground by asserting that historic English is somehow “better”, since language is always changing. After all, the English language did not begin to experience a serious standardization of spelling and grammatical structure until the 19th century. That being said, I cannot help but admit that a part of me wants to declare that the new movement of the English language is a deterioration. In other words, my feelings agree with you, while my more removed self wants to advise caution.

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