Thursday, October 23, 2008

Precision of Language

As my seniors are reading Pride and Prejudice, I am reminded of how we have become so lazy with our use of language over the years. When you read novels written in the 1800's you realize how people used to say exactly what they meant. When Mr. Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth it is because she "is tolerable enough, but not nearly handsome enough to tempt him". Such precision and so insulting. They thought carefully about what they said and chose the appropriate word for the occasion. Conversations weren't filled with "whatevers, likes and you know what I means". While I am all for the use of technology, I feel in many ways it has made us lazier, dumber and so much more vague and ambiguous. We speak in generalities, we use vague nouns such as "things and stuff" when we are at a loss for words. We resort to three letter abbreviations rather than writing in complete sentences. I have, on more than one occasion, received papers from students that are written in IM language. Why would someone think this is acceptable for an English class? Because this "dumbed down" way of writing and speaking has become the norm- I receive emails from teachers who write this way. It is appalling and embarrassing to see a fellow co-worker use "lol" or say "gonna". Really? Is this what we have become? We have become a nation of people who have resorted to monosyllabic grunts followed by some cute little punctuation that is supposed to resemble a smiling face or some other emotion. We need these symbols because what we have written is so vague that without the winking face following it, nobody would be able to infer we were making a statement in good fun. As an English teacher, I find this whole situation very depressing. I was gonna like insert a sad face here, but didn't know how to, oh well, whatever.