Texting and the Decline of Language (Or Is It?)

John McWhorter gives an interesting and engaging Ted Talk about texting and how many bemoan the way in which texting is dumbing us down. Well, not me. I don’t text.

 

Although, now that I am following those butterflies (my super cute phrase for dating), I have started texting. However, I am a one-fingered texter due to the fact that finances only permit me to have a cheap, disposable phone. And because I still can’t bring myself to embrace the texting culture and its language, I spell every last word out and use correct punctuation.

Now, I’m sure you can imagine how long that takes. And if you can’t? Well, let’s just say I could crank out a well-crafted essay in the time it would take me to text, “Good morning! How was your night? I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you and can’t wait to see you again.” To be honest, I would like to loosen up in regards to texting, because it would be great to communicate at a rate other than a snail’s pace. 

 

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True story…

 

Anyhow, John McWhorter makes some excellent points in regards to texting not being the downfall of Western Society.

  1. Texting is meant to communicate how we talk, not how we write. In reality, “we don’t always (even usually) speak in complete, prescriptively grammatical sentences” (Curzan 458). Texting is an informal method of communication used to convey relaxed or casual speech.
  2. Criticism and disdain for the incompetence of youth and their use of language can be traced back thousands of years. We’re not the first.
  3. It’s actually beneficial to be able to use text language as it shows adaptability and versatility.

No, we’re not the first to believe language is being brutally murdered by incompetent youth.  The fact is, language is not being butchered, it is simply changing. The reason I believe this is because time is not stagnant. It is fluid and so is language. Language has to change because times change. And the youth are not incompetent. They’re creating something new, something that works for the times we live in now, not twenty years ago.

With that in mind, processes which shorten words (clipping, alphabetism, acronymy, and backformation) thus allowing for more efficient communication will continue to be utilized.

In contemplation, ofc @TEOTD yolo. It’s all about perspective. We look at life through our own individual lenses but sometimes forget every so often we need to change them.

Adams, Michael, and Anne Curzan. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction. Pearson, 2012.

 

Infixes Are Absoflippinglutely Fandiddlytastic!

I have an aversion to profanity. I do. My fifteen-year-old son would have me subscribe to the attitude that a word is just a word. I will not. I must draw the line somewhere, and profanity is that line.

Imagine my shock when, after being a stay-at-home mom for nearly fifteen years, I walked back into a high school and heard profanity filling the halls, cafeteria, and even my classroom. Shock! Gasp! Horror! Had I been “gone” that long? When I was in school, a kid would not dare curse anywhere near a teacher. Have things changed so much in twenty-five years?

But I suppose it’s not too surprising when profanity has saturated nearly everything, even academic books. In chapter four of How English Works, I was disappointed to find the author chose to use profanity as one example of an expletive infix. Upon further contemplation, I could think of very little expletive infixes that did not use profane words as the inserted word. Luckily, I found a website that reintroduced me to other examples I had forgotten.

Meet Ned Flanders.

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He inserts “diddly” into many of his words making them playful in the process. Which is more playful, fantastic or fandiddlytastic? I know which one is more fun to say. Fandiddlytastic! Unlike prefixes which inserts an affix at the beginning or end of a base word and changes the meaning of the word, infixes are placed within the word and do not change the meaning. They simply add emphasis.

What is interesting is that “despite their use in slang rather than standard language, linguists have found that these infixes follow systematic phonological rules in the way they may be placed and these rules tell us a lot about prosodic structure and the internal linguistic knowledge of speakers of the language” (Luu). The inserted word, such as “bloody” (absobloodylutely), “ma” (edumacation), along with Ned’s “diddly” are naturally inserted before the stressed syllable of a word.

It is an intuitive thing that English speakers do without giving it much thought and illustrates that even with non-standard English, there are still natural rules that we all are compelled to follow.

 

Adams, Michael, and Anne Curzan. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction, 3rd Edition. Pearson, 2012.

Luu, Chi. “Fanf–kingtastic and Edumacational: The Case of English Infixation.” JSTOR Daily: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match. daily.jstor.org/fanfuckingtastic-and-edumacational-the-case-of-english-infixation/.

What Makes A Word Realz?

I decided eight weeks ago that I would pursue an MA in English for three different reasons. The first is that I am a single mother, and during the weekends when my children are away, I find myself under the covers “binge-racing” series after series. I decided I needed forced structure in the form of discussion boards and due dates.
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The second point is that I love literature, I love language, and I love learning. Learning how to fix a sentence that is not translating smoothly is necessary to write well and to teach well. And it’s simply fun!
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The third reason is that I will be seeking an English teaching job, preferably with all Honors and AP classes filled with motivated students who want to work. That is if I can ever pass the ultra-relevant-to-teaching-English-at-the-secondary-level math praxis. I figured if by chance the math praxis turns out to be my Moby Dick, I can always teach at the college level. I hear the pay is fantastic!
So in thinking about words, what even makes a word real? An art appreciation professor posed this same question to me years ago. What makes art real? And who is to judge? Is a crumpled piece of paper art if a person claims it to be? Or anything by Jackson Pollock for that matter? Or what about Marcel Duchamp? Is his urinal art when compared to Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith painting?
My initial response was no! But in considering the question, one has to go beyond their tastes and preferences and consider other factors. Cultural context matters. Social factors matter. Just as Gentileschi was influenced by the demands of the religious climate, so Duchamp and the Dadaists were affected by the first global war and the culture that allowed such a travesty to occur. Just as art changes with the times, so does language.

So again, what makes a word real? People make a word real, just as people make art, music, or poetry real. People create words, and people give those words meaning. As Anne Curzan mentions in her Ted Talk, language is a living thing. It changes as we change. Whether or not we want to accept it matters not.

I detest lol, but if I remember that it is shorthand used in informal situations such as texting or on social media, then I am more inclined to acknowledge it. I still don’t like it, but I can accept it. My new favorite word, although my twelve-year-old told me it’s out of fashion now, is “derpy.” Derpy means stupid. It’s a little less harsh than the word stupid which is why I like it. And if I’m honest, it’s a fun word to say.
What are some of your favorite “real” words?

 

Dominant: Butterflies and Love

Lately, love has been the dominant thought running through my mind. This is a big deal. Really. It’s a big deal because for the past six years, since my traumatic divorce, I’ve remained single.

I don’t mean the kind of single that signs up on Tinder. I mean single as in celibate. No dates, no kisses, no one-night distractions, no hugs, no cuddles, no intimacy. Nothing.

As I might have mentioned before, when I took a trip to Paris, I had an Irish roommate in one of the hostels I stayed at who told me his old Irish mother said it takes half the time of the length of the relationship to completely get over it. And don’t you know, I think she might be right.

So here I am. An almost forty-one-year-old divorced mother of three. And I feel somewhat transported back in time, to that younger self who was still optimistic, even in the midst of all the ugliness of life. Still optimistic. That’s the gift of youth I suppose. Life is still ahead of the young.

But now life is not exactly ahead of me anymore. A good portion of it is behind. The first half has come and gone and I am now entering the second half. It’s much different approaching the idea of love in the second half.

A significant portion of my life was shared with a man. And together we did something very significant. We created three human beings together. And though it is probably the most significant thing two people can do together, it was not significant enough to keep the vows from disintegrating. That gives one a reason to pause.

And I have. Paused. For six years. But recently a spark has been lit and I’ve hesitantly taken my finger off of the pause button and nervously but excitedly pushed play.

I have butterflies again, butterflies that have been sleeping for many, many years. I am ready to follow them now and see where they lead me. Maybe, just maybe they will lead back to love.

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Dominant

The Fractured Form of Eliot’s Ellipsis

“Make it new!”

That was the rallying cry of Ezra Pound harkened to by young artists of the early twentieth century. This period would later be coined “modern” due to the rapid advancement in industry, technology, science, and women’s liberation among other things. Western civilization was pulsating with electricity. Continue reading

Doing the Best You Can is the Best You Can Do

My father has a theory. My father has lots of theories. Some interesting, some ignorant, some humorous, and some are just downright insane. My father, he’s an interesting man, and I suppose he is somewhat insane. But I guess we all struggle with or celebrate our own variety of insanity.

Anyhow, one of his theories, and it is by no means unique to him, is that there is positive and negative vibrations. The positive being all things you would think are positive: honesty, commitment, kindness, sacrifice, etc. When you die, you have a review of your life on some sort of mystic flat screen. Preferably with a bowl of buttery, mystic popcorn.

You get to see all of the wonderful things you did in your life, like zip-lining through the forest in St. Marten or holding your first born child in your arms. But you also get to review all of the horrible things that happened, like the time you did that thing after six too many gin and tonics. You know, that thing? Or the time you stood by your grandmother’s hospital bed as she struggled to release her last breath and you didn’t look away.

Yes, you get to see it all, feel it all, experience it all and then if your positive vibration is high enough you can move on. On to a higher frequency, wherever that is. Heaven perhaps? Or maybe the suburbs of Heaven. And if your vibrating at a negative level, well…I don’t like to think about that.

What interests me though, and what this post is really about, is the idea that some people might have a high enough vibration to move on but will make a deliberate choice to come back. When my father told me his thoughts on that, all I could think was really? Someone would actually choose to come back to this place if they had an option of moving on to something better?

Now I have been fortunate enough to experience some truly beautiful and amazing things in my life. The way the Virginia pines looked to me as a baby lying in my stroller. Oh that contrast of green against blue. The softness of my mother and how safe it felt to be wrapped in her arms. The way that horse looked in a Danish field, a giant in the fog, slowly taking shape as I came closer. Giant, gentle, creature. That first kiss opening up the world for the very first time. The way it felt to be in his arms, flesh against flesh, to feel the rise of his chest against my cheek. And babies! Life inside of life! Creation out of love giving birth to new love. Soft thighs, tiny grasp, complete and total trust only a child can give. Complete and total love, unconditional, that only a child can give. So many beautiful memories.

But I have also been unfortunate enough to experience some truly horrific and painful things in my life. Enough to think I would never deliberately choose to come back to this place. Ever.

But lately, as I reflect on my life and the bad choices I’ve made, the bad things that have happened to me, and the awful things I have done, a thought creeps into my mind. If I could have another shot at this thing, at life, I would do it differently. I would make different choices, better choices. I would get it right. If only I could have another shot.

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks falling from a twenty story building followed by a six ton elephant. I might be one of those people. The ones that would deliberately choose to come back to this place. The lure of getting it right, getting it perfect, the misguided delusion that it is even possible to get it perfectly right would be enough to bring me back.

But I guess there’s the rub. I know even if I were given another shot, the likelihood of doing the same exact thing, making the same exact choices, is very real. Because in the end, there’s no guarantee where you land when you get here. It’s a crap shoot.

So maybe the point is not getting it right. Maybe the way we move on in this life or the next, is the ability to accept that fact. No, I didn’t get it right, not by a long shot. But I did the best I could with what I had. It might not have been any good, but it was the best I could do.

We’re not given a choice when we’re born. If we were, I’m sure a good many of us would have put in for a transfer within the first week of living with our parents. And as we continue on our paths, we’re often not given a choice of what happens to us given the fact that our lives are interconnected with the lives of 7.53 billion other people that inhabit this Earth. As cliché as it is, the only choice we really have is what we choose to do with circumstances thrust upon us.

I can’t help but think of the wisdom wise old Gandalf bestowed to Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” But I think even more importantly, it is to accept the outcomes of our decisions. And if we’ve truly done the best we could with what was given to us, then accept that is all we can do and leave the rest behind.

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