The Living Language

A few months ago, I had to enable the closed caption tool on my TV.  Since then, I’ve been having a ball, reading some of the “audio typos” that scroll across my screen.  Such as “John Lenin” instead of “John Lennon”.  “Collaborated” became “clap rated” and “germicide” turned to “jimiside”.  That isn’t even English!  But my absolute favorite was “can do this” showed up as “dookis.”

There was a discussion recently on some of my loops about English and how different it is from place to place.  That’s because it’s a living language.  Have you ever read THE FAERIE QUEENE by Spenser in the original language?  I took a course on early English literature by a professor who was a world authority on the poem and she could actually read it out loud in the old English.  I only recognized one word in seven; that’s because of the changes that have occurred in the last 600 years.

I know that several times, when I’ve critiqued someone’s work, I occasionally discover that I catch words or phrases that I used in the ’60s, but sound weird today.  And don’t get me started on the grammar and punctuation changes that have happened since my last English course. 

But that’s the way it should be.  Language is one of the things that distinguishes from the other primates.  Oh, they have their own calls, but they don’t change over the years.  I bet a chimp from the 16th century could fit in pretty well with chimps today.  And just as we evolve as humans, our language grows with us.  I think that’s one of the reasons words intrigue me so.  I love the sound of a well turned phrase, the texture and rhythm of well written prose, and the imagery of a highly polished descriptive paragraph.  I love the quirky words that come and go; I’m even enthralled with those technological words that I have no idea what they mean.

That’s one of the things I love best about writing.  I can pick through words like beads in boxes, stringing together all kind of things.  It can be everything from a strong, sturdy article on how-to or a raunchy limerick or a heart-breaking song.  Words…bright, clever, terrifying, or dull.  I can use them to make books I love to write.

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7 thoughts on “The Living Language

  1. I have a couple of friends who are Deaf. They lip read and use sign language to communicate. For them its sometimes challenging to incorporate into their “language” new words that enter a hearing person’s vernacular such as iPod, Facebook, or MySpace.

    Lynn

    • Lynn–That’s why I turned on the closed caption thing. I’ve always had a hearing problem and I use lip reading to help me “hear”. I can’t totally read lips, but what I do makes the difference. Problem is when someone forms the word differently; then I’m never sure.

  2. Jackie,

    I think if one of the local colleges offered a degree in Semantics, I’d go back and do some more ‘book learnin’. I enjoy listening to language in use, and in print. I find typos everywhere. I look things up on wordspy.com to see when something comes into usage and where the earliest instances are recorded. I agree that the ‘technology’ words have a fascinating entry into daily parlance.

    One of the writers in Houston used to suggest that all romance authors try their hands at writing poetry, she said it caused them to be more thoughtful about word choice when writing their stories. spw

  3. I love our language and the fact that it’s ever changing, but I do wish people weren’t so careless with it. I don’t think it’s asking too much that we have standards (ie, punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc.). Fluidity is great and necessary, but I hate to see the language so abused.

    But words are definitely lovely.

    As for poetry: don’t I know it, I ain’t no poet. 🙂

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