Amblin' Alameda: Language Evolution

Amblin' Alameda: Language Evolution

Morton Chalfy

In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote: “Whan that Aprille with its flours soote...” and laid down the structure of an argument that continues to this day. Was the person widely considered the greatest poet of his age a terrible speller, poor at grammar or just uneducated? Or is it that language continuously evolves to fit the spirit of the times? (When that April with its flowers sweet...”)

Our current period is changing and shaping the English language so rapidly that unintelligibility can be achieved in just decades, even years, and no longer requires seven centuries. Twitter alone is re-shaping the written word until it seems that everything's an acronym, and for anyone who's past a certain age all the acronyms are mysterious.

Where's The Food??? I don't think so.

To a grammatical purist, (and I know and love several) these changes are anathema, and the language should remain fixed as they learned it with any slight modifications being first vetted by the most conservative judges they can find. I am not so rigid in my views on this subject, which often puts me at odds with my loved ones.

Every generation seeks to differentiate itself from its elders and argot is one of the most effective ways. “Hep” turns into “hip” into “cool” into “rad” into whatever they're saying today that I don't quite get. (“Sick,” I think.) The language of the young is intended to be different than the language of the old and the addition to the language of new technologies and their practitioners drives incomprehensibility even further.

When we're young we eagerly learn the new jargon, flaunt it in front of our elders and giggle like mad. As we age we try to keep up, we try to learn from our children, we try to remain “hip” even if that's no longer the term for au courant, but after enough years pass by we oldsters no longer care. The people with the new language aren't the people we talk to any longer, we don't watch the shows that employ the new words and phrases and our lives are not impacted by this area of ignorance.

Just think of the lyrics of a popular rap song surfacing in a hundred years (let alone seven hundred) and think about its understandability quotient at that time. It probably won't be recognizable as English let alone be understood. English has become a global tongue and has added many linguistic rivers to its already rich ocean, and like everything else in our world, is changing at an increasing rate.

Oh well, I can always ask my grandchildren.

Comments

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Tue, Dec 3, 2013

Love this! I used to be one of those hardcore purists and still am in certain cases. (You did NOT graduate college. You were graduated from...oh, never mind!) It's become a pointless exercise. As I get older, I'm lightening up. Language does evolve, often for the better. Let's face it. When someone knocks, and you ask "Who's there?", do you really want to visit with the guy who answers, "It is I"?