The English language is dying.
I know that languages evolve over time and that change is inevitable, but I would say the vast majority of people in England do not write (or even speak) good English. Witness the number of signs with mis-placed apostrophes (e.g. HGV’s use next entrance) – and one of my recent customers even has painted markings on the surface of their car park which suggest walkers possess that particular area (i.e. pedestrian’s).
My own English is far from perfect; but I can blame that on being a child of the 1970s and 1980s who had a state school education. I remember one teacher at my middle school who was so frustrated as the class struggled with basic punctuation such as full stops, commas and apostrophes that they decided not to teach us how to use semi-colons and colons. That was that and I never learnt how to use them.
So what has this got to do with a (we)blog about technology? Well, I recently read Lynne Truss’ best seller “Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation“. In the last chapter, Truss discusses technology’s role in the destruction of our language. To quote:
“…by tragic historical coincidence a period of abysmal under-educating in literacy has coincided with this unexpected explosion of global self-publishing. Thus people who don’t know their apostrophe from their elbow are positively invited to disseminate their writings to anyone on the planet stupid enough to double-click and scroll”.
“…Even in the knowledge that our punctuation has arrived at its present state by a series of accidents; even in the knowledge that there are at least seventeen rules for the comma, some of which are beyond explanation by top grammarians – it is a matter for despair to see punctuation chucked out as worthless by people who don’t know the difference between who’s and whose, and whose bloody automatic ‘grammar checker’ can’t tell the
I did chuckle when I read about Bob Hirschfield’s pluperfect virus (the Strunkenwhite Virus), which first appeared in the Washington Post. Intended to provide a satirical view on the rise in hoax virus e-mails, it describes a virus (named Strunkenwhite after the authors of a classic guide to good writing), which returns e-mail messages that have grammatical or spelling errors.
Somewhat unfairly IMHO ;-), Truss also attacks emoticons but all of this does leave me wondering whether my son will grow up to read text or txt, and, does all of this, like, really matter as the erosion of our written language is just part of a wider issue with the spoken form, innit?
In the UK, The Economist recently ran a poster campaign which read something like:
“You can so tell the people who don’t like read the Economist”.
For those of us who do care about the correct use of language, Answers.com provides an online dictionary with definitions (e.g. blog), pronunciation, explanations (courtesy of Wikipedia); or there is WordSpy (the Website devoted to lexpionage, the sleuthing of new words and phrases).
I commend these as examples of where technology can help us to become more expressive in our online use of language.
Long live the English language!
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