Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for language.

Words can be beautiful. i often talk about crossing over from mostly being a writer to a visual artist, but obviously, as evidenced by my blog, i do still write. For the past several years, i have seen a disturbing trend grow and gain momentum, and it saddens me.

It appears that language is being eroded, word by word, syllable by syllable, and replaced with text speak or the usage of unknowingly innacurate words. i don't claim to be a genius, and i myself could stand to learn many, many more words than i utilise currently, but rarely will you see me throw out an "lol" or an "omg". i don't intend to put down anyone who uses those abbreviations, but when they filter into speech or every bit of writing someone produces, i die a little inside.

Several months ago, i saw a commercial about an effort to save the English language, one word at a time. The movement's members were to each "adopt a word" that they agreed to keep from falling out of use. i'm still not sure if it was a joke or an actual attempt to keep less often used words alive, and i applaud their efforts if it is indeed for real, but i find it concerning that this is even necessary.

Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? The very first time i watched it, ofcourse i laughed, it's funny, but i also felt a little sick at the thought that i could almost see those very things playing out in the real world; i could see the path we're on gradually leading us to a world where everything is a billboard for advertisers (including people's names), where there was an entire channel devoted to videos of men getting kicked in the crotch and where a person's worth is based almost solely on sex appeal. It's far-fetched, i know, but parts of that movie are not so far out of the realm of possibility if things keep going the way they are.

Anyone who watches even a smattering of television anymore can see the dumbing down that is taking place. The clever, quirky and intelligent shows are often canceled, while reality tv - i'm thinking of stuff like The Bachelor and Jersey Shore here - prevails. i've never seen the Jersey Shore, but i don't need to see it to get the idea. i'm not saying i don't watch some less-than-breakthrough television, but when the most popular shows involve cat fights and nearly every scene contains a hot tub, i have cause to be alarmed. Entertainment is one thing - i can watch even the stupidest movie and still be entertained (watch The Room, seriously - it's so bad, it's good, as in, hilarious) - but the ratings that these shows draw in turn makes tv executives continue with the same mind-numbing crap, week after week, until the only thing on is...well, shows focused on a kick in the balls. As the audience, we should demand better. Really, they're only giving us what they think we want, or maybe what they want us to want? Ok, conspiracy theories aside, there would be a signifigant gain by the powers that be in the dumbing down of its citizens. The less informed and intelligent we are, the easier we are to control.

Even more frightening, many people don't read anymore, and don't deem it a priority that their children do. i have always loved a good book, and while the raising of my son, daily chores and even making art means i read less than i used to, i still try to fit a book in when i can. i began reading to my son when he was only a few months old, and while i try not to put any expectations on him, i did hope he would be a book lover, and i'm thrilled to say he is. Sure, he still plays video games and watches tv, but for him, a trip to the library always elicits excitement, and he almost never comes away from the outing with less than a stack of 10 or more books. i never really "baby talked" to him, and that coupled with his love of reading has led to him having a broader vocabulary than most children his age. He'll often toss a "big word" into his every day speach, as if it were nothing. i love that, and it warms this mother's heart. On the flip side, he has relentlessly been made fun of at school for different reasons, one being reading. As the other children played kick ball during recess, he enjoyed sitting under a tree with a good book, and he was teased to the point of feeling embarassed to be seen reading, so he stopped doing it in front of them. And that's really sad. Yes, children tease each other for all kinds of reasons, and yes, he needs to find that place inside him where he feels comfortable being himself, regardless of their reactions, but still, it makes me sad that the other children see reading for enjoyment alone to be weird or questionable behavior.

There is a way to turn the tide. Our technology has made leaps and bounds in just the last 10 years alone, and the internet can be a wonderful tool, but letting the machines think for us can also be dangerous. We can make good use of the internet and television by discovering and learning about other cultures and staying updated on world events, and even by laughing at witty and clever sitcoms, but they can also form a wall between us, until we're all staring into screens instead of into each other's eyes.

Help keep language alive. Go to the library, it's free, and will only cost you time, but it's time very well spent. Encourage your children to read, or read to them. Show them what a truly great story can be. Help them learn about a country or culture they may have never even heard of. Take time yourself to learn a new word every day - make it a personal challenge. And once you learn those words, it's use them or lose them. i'm guilty of that myself; i've forgotten many words i learned long ago, simply because i never applied them to my speech. And if we all do that, if we all forget and don't apply them anymore, what happens to language? Does it become an antiquated notion? Will we be reduced to mumbling lol speak to each other? i, for one, certainly hope not.


  1. Bravo!!!!!

    You use your language well. And for the good.

    And I love you too!

  2. What wonderful thoughts! Great blog...just hooping by with A to Z...

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa! :)