The Business of Words
Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, words are my livelihood. But trust me when I say they aren’t the be all end of all of my existence.
There are so many things that just don’t matter to me. A turn of phrase that’s just not right Like when my friend says “It’s water under the dam.” Yes of course it’s water under the bridge or over the dam, but I get her meaning. Whatever she’s talking about is done and let’s move on. (Now, don’t get me wrong, if Mr. Nina said that I’d be all over him like flies on rice … or something like that. *g*)
My point is, there are things that just don’t matter to me. They’re not worth fighting about or in some cases even getting flustrated. (Oookay, that is one of my pet peaves when someone mispronounces frustrated … but I digress) The point is I’m not going to scour the newspaper, magazines or other people’s blogs looking for errors. Lord knows, when it comes to this blog, the number, of errant, commas would probably, drive an editor insane. I refuse to throw stones or cast aspersions that may possible bring someone here screaming that I’ve masacred the English language. I do it every day. If not publically on my blog, then quietly as I pound out my next story. I’m terrible with “your” and “their”. Not because I don’t know how/when to use them, but I don’t always see when I’ve used them wrong. (Sometimes my heart aches for my hardworking editors. I love every single one of them!)
Still, there are people like Gene Weingarten who lament that the English language is dying a quiet, agonizing death at the hands of newspapers who are cutting back on the use of copy editors. Half the mistakes he pointed out would not cause me to hesitate … but then … that’s his point.
I don’t care. But perhaps I should.
I guess I should worry that the basis on which I make a living is slowly drowning in a cesspool of “Textese”. But the truth is … I don’t. Yes, I want my children to be able to write a coherent cover letter for their typo-free resume. I want them to be able to hold an intelligent conversation about something other than what they had for breakfast (which my son never remembers since his young adult body is already focused on the next meal) or the latest YouTube sensation. But I don’t worry too much when their emails or texts stray from proper grammar now and again.
The fact is, one can’t even turn to the dictionary these days for help. We used to claim if it wasn’t it the dictionary (or you couldn’t say it front of your grandmother) it couldn’t go on the Scrabble board. Hmmm, can’t really say that now. Even words that didn’t used to be “real” words are there now. Do you Google, Tweet or Zoomba? Because they’re all in the online dictionary as both nouns and verbs. They wouldn’t have been considered words a decade ago. All this means for our family is we have to agree on which dictionary when playing Scrabble before even one letter is laid (layed? lain?).
Hey, things change. They evolve. I’m sure Shakespeare would be very unhappy if he attended a writer’s conference and listened to excerpts from today’s novels. There’s no doubt he would think we had completely mangled his beloved language. Hey, I wouldn’t want to listen to old English all day. I have a hard enough time reading it in historicals sometimes. I can’t imagine trying to decipher it when talking with a friend.
So does all of this make us wrong? Is the English language really dying or simply evolving and changing with the times?