English (the language, that is)

The Decline of the English Language (another throwback, also still relevant)

Now that you have been introduced to some of my prudish and old fashioned ideals, I figured it would be a good time to share the fact that I am a bit of an English snob.  I’m referring to the English language, not the country; though, England is very lovely.

Back when I was trying my hand at on-line dating, whenever I created my profile, I would always add the following statement:  If you cannot form sentences without the use of constant abbreviations, lol’s, textspeak, or some semblance of proper English usage, please do not expect a reply.

It may sound a little harsh, but, I thought it only right that I gave fair warning.  I found that probably 85% of the people on these sites didn’t even bother to read what I had written, anyway, so I felt no guilt in weeding out the “bad” ones immediately.

I will admit that I have used the occasional “LOL” (I used to type out “laughing” before I forced myself to just use the abbreviation), and, after having played World of Warcraft for many years, my l33tspeak vocabulary has increased tenfold.  For the most part, however, when I speak or write, the average human can understand what I am saying, without the use of an on line or urban dictionary.

I am not fully against gamer speak or textspeak, as there are appropriate reasons and environments for using such languages.  It’s when those abbreviations encroach into the “real” world- you know, the world where we actually speak to other human beings face-to-face or in formal writing- that I take issue.

With the massive increase of on-line communications, there seems to be a massive decrease in the use of proofreading or editing.  I have read countless news articles with misspelled names/words, improper punctuation, and such poor usage of pronouns that I’ve had to read the article multiple times to figure out to whom or what the author was referring.  The facts are barely laid out in any sort of order, it often appears that someone’s scribbled notes were just thrown onto a virtual page and left, as is.

Brochures and business advertisements are in a similar state of disrepair.  My first thought is often, “who was the editor/publisher for this crap?”  My second thought is more of a sad realization that there was likely never a proofreader/editor involved in the production of said brochures/advertisements, due to the wonderful opportunities for self-promotion available on the Worldwide Web.  Self-promotion is great, but if you want to sound somewhat professional, try to spell “lounge” correctly.  And to sound older than a 9-year-old.

While the ideals and assertions of the Academie francaise may seem a bit silly to us, I admit that I am slightly awed by their attempts to preserve their language.  I know, I know, their ambition is to keep the French language as French as possible, and to prevent evil foreign language expressions (mainly, English) from creeping in to formal usage.  They are decidedly elitist, old-fashioned, and anti-English. But I do admire their attempts at limiting slang and trying to keep things proper.  Look at this statement:

“We want to restore courage to all those in France and outside France who endeavour to defend and enrich the language. Let French remain a great language of communication and culture,” Jean-Matthieu Pasqualini of the Académie told Le Figaro.

If something similar were to be posted on line in respect to the English language, I’m guessing the replies would look something like this:

“LOL! idts bro”
“Lol to bad whats up with this dude get in the 21st centry”
“these people got there heads up there ass”

Sad, isn’t it?

I remember when Spenser was very young, and just learning to read and write, I would look at some of his schoolwork.  There was a new “philosophy” or “method” back then, which was based on the merits of attempting to spell a word, as opposed to actually enforcing (its) proper spelling.  “Kat” was an acceptable replacement for “cat”, because, isn’t it fantastic, they recognized the general idea of the word!  Sorry, but when do they start learning about the difference between a “hard” and “soft” “c”?  Tenth grade?  “Cat” is not a difficult word.  Really.

Of course, being the horrible Nazi-like Mother I was, I would point out, “..but, that’s not right.. I know your teacher didn’t mark it wrong, but, that’s not how we spell ‘cat.’  It’s spelled with a ‘c.’  Learn it now and you won’t have to re-learn it next year.  Now spell it correctly.” (sound of whip snapping in background)
It’s no wonder that half of the people in America can’t spell, if they’re starting out in this fashion.

Add in the need for the conservation of space and time required for texting and on-line chat through the years, and you have a recipe for disaster.  This is not about the new generation of young adults, this is about everyone, the French included.  Expectations (it always comes down to this, does it not?) have been lowered, and “attempts” are considered acceptable.  It’s not about getting in the 21st century, it’s about laziness, and the fact that most of us have forgotten usage rules, anyway.

When I write these posts, I proofread multiple times before hitting the “publish” button.  I am constantly recalling my high school English teacher (I love you, Mrs. Richardson) and her Evil Red Pen, and asking myself if my syntax is bad, if my pronouns are sloppy, if I’m being too colloquial (I am, but this is blogging), if my sentences would be understood by an alien race attempting to learn the language.  I take immense liberties, I use horrifically long run-on sentences, my use of quotation marks is likely abominable, and I continually start sentences with conjunctions.  As I edit, I consider whether anyone would actually give a crap if I have incorrectly used “who” instead of “whom.”  I blush to admit that my internal reply to that question is “no, Catherine, they don’t…just leave it..”

In the end, it truly does come down to expectations and what is acceptable.  Our decline as a whole is the product of these lowered expectations.  The less we care, the lazier we get, and standards will all but disappear from society. Join me in my (currently) one man crusade to encourage some noble standards.  Equip your mental Red Pens and “endeavour to defend and enrich” our language.  Challenge yourselves to spend a day proofreading before hitting “enter,”  to use no abbreviations, and to communicate your intelligence to the world without once using “LOL” in your musings.

Translation:  L2 rite.