Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Mulling over the sorry state of the English language

by Rick Blechta

I caught myself once again apologizing to someone by nearly saying, “My bad.” Darn! There goes some more slipping on one of my New Year’s resolutions. There’s nothing wrong about trying to be hip, but there is something so grating to my ears (and mind) by using terms that I’m convinced spilled out of some 16-year-old’s pen because they couldn’t remember how to spell “fault”.

Think about it. We had a perfectly good phrase and it’s been turned into something that sounds awkward and puerile at the same time. Why? Because it’s been repeated over and over to the point where it’s an acceptable part of our language. Hell! It’s not even clever. It sounds like something a toddler would say.

I’ve written before here about how the average English speaker’s vocabulary is shrinking. I’ll admit I also find our language fascinating and I’ve discussed with polyglots (of which my wife is one) about how flexible English is in comparison to many other languages. I’ll have to take their word for it.

What I find alarming and sad in equal measure is that the English lexicon should be expanding if anything. Instead we would be talked under the table by our forebears of even 100 years ago. Think that’s not true? Read any E.M. Forster novel. If you don’t have a dictionary at the ready, you’re not going to make it through. A person reading it at the time it was printed would have no such issue.

I’m going to end my rant now, but I would really like some input on this topic from Type M readers. There are a lot of other “new” phrases and terms that are coming into common use that are not really adding anything to the language. You certainly all have your “favourites”, you know, the ones that make you grind your teeth.

What are they? And please share them with all of us.


Vicki Delany said...

I hate "no problem" when you have thanked someone for a service in a store or restaurant. Frankly if I'm paying to be treated well, I don't care if its a problem for you or not. Just say "you're welcome".

Rick Blechta said...

I must admit that I've been guilty of that one -- as recently as yesterday.

There are two other "brave new words" of which I am particularly unfond*: "peeps" and "homies". To me they just sound lame, and again, juvenile.

Perhaps I'm just becoming a curmudgeon, but there you go...

*See? You, too, can invent words!*

A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

I absolutely detest the alteration of the word sandwich into sammie. I hear it so often it's annoying. Selfie is another one that i dislike, along with the actual action it represents.

Rick Blechta said...

Yes, aren't they just too precious? I would expect a 3-year-old to be able to manage "sammie" but not someone of 50 -- which I heard just the other day.

Thanks for the two good examples!

Donis Casey said...

I was going to nominate 'no problem' as well. The only problem with 'no problem' is that it is ubiquitous, and I've become so inured to it that I found myself saying it to someone the other day!

Rick Blechta said...

How about saying "Uh-ha" instead of "you're welcome" as they tend to do in the southern US? This is not new, but the first few times I heard it, I had no idea what was meant until a southerner explained it to me.