Erosion of the English Language

As an English major, I can easily admit a healthy amount of bias pertaining to this subject. But it is getting a little out of hand people. Eloquence is an archaic practice, an art of the past. Ridiculous acronyms, idiotic idioms, double negatives, atrocious mispronunciation and just generally dreadful grammar are pervading our natural speech. Once upon a grander time, the craftsmanship of discourse was something to be thought of with pride. Great thinkers were also great writers and orators. Like the Virginia Slims cigarette ad prophesizes: We’ve come a long way baby.

Technology has a hand in it. The ease with which we all communicate these days certainly increases our laziness. Ages ago, crafted handwritten letters might be the only communication people had for months and months. Today, perpetual instant messengers create new spellings, nonsensical phrases, abbreviations, and generally abuse language as if it were silly putty. Sadly, most people raise a confused eyebrow while pondering whether it is the proper time to use you’re or your. Farewell days of yore, welcome days of ‘ur.’ This spelling is all encompassing. One cannot be wrong if the right answer doesn’t matter anyway. Some classes are now offered online. The elimination of the classroom setting may be convenient at times, but it also corrodes the improvement of social skills. Additionally, emails have a strong tendency to be decidedly succinct as well. If achieving the semblance of comprehension is copasetic; there ya go. It would be bad if the spoken and written word deteriorate completely. Just ask one of the many people who choose to phonetically utter “lol” rather than laugh naturally.

The ease of lazy locution makes its viral spread an everyday battle. Screaming a nonsensical interjection is much simpler than accurately depicting the events that elicited the outburst. An episode of ESPN Sportscenter may contain more gibberish than completed clauses altogether, and that’s just the hosts. Wait for the sound bites from the punch-drunk boxer, the too-oft sacked quarterback or the concussed hockey player. Some of these guys would have trouble connecting the dots, so one can imagine their speech patterns. These role models inundate us with some of the worst linguistic blunders and most inane euphemisms. Abstract inference would say that it’s acceptable to be mentally deficient so long as you can sock a dinger. Derek Jeter can lead off for my team anytime, but I wouldn’t hire him to ghostwrite my autobiography.

Reality television also showcases head-scratching diction. Flip to The Surreal Life and treat yourself to the brilliant verbiage of mindless models or the clever witticisms of Jose Canseco. Didn’t the Gods of pop culture originally banish these people for a reason? Television programs are supposed to have writers because these human shells need words put in their mouths. These pseudo-celebs probably haven’t read a book in eons. It’s a problem, and it doesn’t stop there.

Now, let’s take it right to the top. In previous years, the presidency was characterized by grandiloquent and inspirational speeches. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address stands as one of the most poignant homilies ever articulated by a commander-in-chief. Conversely, the mangling of language uttered by our current president is deplorable. His stammering though muddled sentences makes me wonder if he’s the one who should have his finger on the button. But, if the leader of the free world can tinker freely with definite rules, who are we to argue?

Basic literacy is enough for most people, but it shouldn’t be. We’re lucky enough to have access to the beautiful words of the English language. Some of our most descriptive words are simply foreign words absorbed into the oeuvre that forms our conventional lexicon. This contributes to the flavor and artistry that is language, it should be sufficient. Why butcher it?

Unfortunately, I see no distinct end to the gradual degradation of spoken or written language. Technology is increasing exponentially, and soon we’ll probably abbreviate our abbreviations. Ludwig Wittgenstein once said “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” By denying oneself the beauty of the word, full understanding and appreciation can never be reached.

Speak your voice, and speak with lucidity.