Szyperski: To change or not to change, that is the questionWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Even in the face of burdensome, illogical and sometimes irrational entities, the heart wants what it wants and it wants what it already knows. It has a way of looking beyond difficulties to accept even the most arduous among us. My heart is no different. Even though it often demands its own way and throws up hurdles like no other, I’m still deeply, madly in love with the English language.
In fact, I’ve learned to love it unconditionally, which is fortunate considering all of the bizarre and sometimes irregular conditions it tends to dictate from day to day. “I” before “e” except after “c.” Goose to geese, mouse to mice, leaf to leaves. To, two, too. Cough, rough, though, through. Seriously, what the heck?
Such subtleties are just scratching the somewhat unpredictable surface of the vast and mysterious creature that is the English language. As far as exceptions to the rules, the list goes on and on. And on and on. And on and on. Yet, I still love it, unconditionally.
One of the major elements of unconditional love is embracing change. If we just loved something unconditionally up to the point its evolution started to annoy us, it would soundly defeat the supposed definition. Language is no exception.
I have to confess that it bothers me on some level when I get a “thx” or a “ur” or a “cya” instead of one of their full-lettered predecessors. It definitely feels wrong and almost dirty to respond in an unfamiliar, equally abbreviated manner. On a positive note, I now have a better understanding of past generations’ reluctance to start using electricity, telephones, computers and other new wonders of the world. It’s certainly hard to change direction from what you already know.
As a writer, I feel especially compelled to use “proper” grammar, capitalization and punctuation whether I’m writing an 800-word column or a short text to my husband. I imagine the guilt of a writer throwing grammatical caution to the wind as compared to a doctor smoking, a dentist scarfing down candy or a chef opening a jar of Prego. You can’t help but wonder if you should really be doing such a thing.
In addition, the older you get, the more uncomfortable change seems to feel. After years of learning the written and unwritten rules of just about everything, it takes a few minutes (or a few years) to allow yourself to believe that something else is OK, too. It takes awhile to question, consider, accept and move on.
I remember questioning my husband wanting to play video games as a grown man when we were first married. I certainly didn’t recall my dad itching to buy an Atari or Nintendo for his own entertainment. I eventually realized, however, that my dad didn’t grow up on video games, but my husband did. In fact, our generation was the first to have gaming as a part of its popular and social culture and growing into adulthood didn’t negate that. Grown men of the prior generation didn’t give up video games out of maturity; video games were never a part of them to begin with.
In the same vein, texting, social media and other modern linguistic abbreviations and variations are strongly a part of the up and coming generations. Although they may sometimes come across as language-strapped teenagers on faceless text messages, those who did not grow up with post-modern English but are willing to try it are actually quite brilliant. Our newly-adopted abbreviation-heavy form of communication is as likely to suddenly fade out of our culture as Old English is to suddenly fade back in. My guess is that LOL, BTW and IMHO are not only here to stay, but they will eventually earn proper language usage status in everything up to and including formal writing.
In some ways, the paring down of language could even act as a great equalizer both in American culture and the global society. We usually have a decent idea about how our lives will change over time, but we almost always miss when it comes to in what form or through which channel such change will finally arrive. Texting language just might be what we once imagined of Esperanto.
Even as someone who has a healthy appreciation for variations in dialect and vernacular, I still struggle with “improper” language sounding like nails on a chalkboard when used in my vicinity. A language for the people, by the people would no doubt bridge the gap that has seemingly always existed across classes and across cultures. The only way to know for sure is to keep loving our language unconditionally and see where it takes us. IMHO.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.
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