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Re: Hmmm

Posted by Pdianek on October 21, 2003

In Reply to: Hmmm posted by Word Camel on October 21, 2003

"We need to get creative" -- absolutely, and how fortunate we are to have this rich language that -- despite the poverty of current usage nearly everywhere, and I include the overuse of profanity, too -- lends itself to imagery.

I read somewhere recently (yes, there's a connection here) that there are two ways in which to regard sexuality that are, simply, unhealthy. The first is to feel ashamed of it -- that used to be far more prevalent, with people feeling embarrassed to discuss even sex within marriage (and led to other problems, such as decades of failure to diagnose and treat breast cancer). The second is to treat it too lightly and casually, to have little respect for all the complexity (physical, emotional, social, spiritual) that sex brings -- that seems to be the view of many people these days, and leads to abuse, "hooking-up" and the spread of disease.

Well, these are also two ways in which language can be regarded. One can feel afraid of its potential, like the French with their barricade attempts to retain purity of their language -- and thus become unable to really discuss what's happening or accept that language mutates (otherwise the French would still be speaking Latin). Or we can accept everything that enters the language -- and end up with what? Mutual incomprehensibility. Which leads to fear and anger, as we cannot understand what the other person's saying.

Somewhere in there is the healthy mean between banning change, on the one hand, and total acceptance of everything spoken as appropriate English.
Perhaps there's an analogy to accents in UK English -- years ago, RP (Received Pronunciation) was the only acceptable accent for radio, theatre, etc. Other accents (e.g., Cockney, Yorkshire) were described with the value-laden word "ugly". Yet now, although RP may still be preferred (and for certain roles, necessary -- a man playing Prince Charles ought to sound plummy), it's not necessarily mandatory. The fear that listeners wouldn't be able to understand, or that the speaker would be regarded as lower-class, seems to have abated a bit.

Sorry, this has been long, but I perceive passionately that English has so many strengths, why not use them?