When George Orwell penned his novel 1984, and created the character of Si; the man who, tells the reader about the Inner Party’s plan to reduce language further and further, issuing reduced dictionaries, eliminating words until there are only the absolute minimum of words remaining with which to communicate, I doubt even Orwell could have imagined how true that would be.
Putting aside the technology of flat screens, CCTV and webcams, all of which can be found within this wonderful work of fiction (?), it is the clear prediction of the destruction of language that strikes me as being the most accurate.
I may be biased because of my nationality, but I think that the English language is the best in the world. It is expressive and can be used to conjure images and scenes far more romantic that even the most dashing of Frenchmen could conceive, and whose poetic nature could rival the most romantic of Arabic phrases.
It can bring laughter and sorrow within the same sentence, humor and horror so close together, yet so separate. I will hold off from going into my love of language any deeper than this, for while I am a big fan of tangents, and we have been known to enjoy many a wandering together, I am keen to keep this post as succinct as possible.
Jump forward almost 65 years (for 1984 was written in 1948) and take a look around. We have mobiles, text message, whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook: all manner of non-verbal communication which actively encourages us to use simplified words and broken sentences, all for the sake of turning messages into anorexic shells of real communication saving characters, and quickening all forms of interaction to make room for the rest of the crap we pack into our lives.
I lose track of the comments I see on Facebook – not posted by my friends, but rather around and about on various links and what have you – which are written in such a faint and corrupted shadow of the English language that they border on the illegible. Yet, these are messages written by people who are literate; people who, if you look at their profiles, have the capabilities of writing in real sentences, but choose to write in this bastardized Twenty-First century language – perhaps we should call it “English-lite”.
I can accept the removing of vowels from some words, to meet Twitter standards, just about. Please do not confuse my acceptance with any form of approval. What really gets me is misspelling words for no reason, or spelling them phonetically. What is the point; we are hobbling our ability to communicate. A powerful vocabulary is a wonderful tool, and can at times be our greatest weapon. We should not be looking to reduce the words, but rather find more of them; words that can truly deliver nuance and emotion The greater our vocabulary, the better we will be at expressing ourselves – even in these short, succinct online statements.
There is never any reason (or excuse) for abusing the English language. Facebook and Blog comments / conversations are not limited enough to warrant this sort of slovenly writing. I would not write something in such a manner and would not expect people to comment with it either. If you don’t have the time to write in proper English, then why have you wasted what precious seconds you have with any response at all? Sure, I may have grammatical errors in my posts, but that is because I do not have the luxury of a large amount of free time. I write my posts early in the morning, more often than not surrounded by children. However, I do make an effort not to sacrifice vocabulary in the ever-increasing need for speed.
(I know, grammar is just as important, but I am not on that soapbox today)
As we move from 2012 and into another new year, let us all make a resolution, to keep language alive. It serves us well in all walks of life, and deserves to have the chance to not merely exist… but to shine. It should not just be used to communicate but to uplift us and hold us in rapture with its lyrical magic.
Many people are talking about the Mayan calendar, but to my mind – rather like the Death card in the Tarot deck – it does not predict an ending, but rather a change, a change for the better, and what could be a more fitting way to start than ceasing the mindless destruction of words.
For all the great things he has provided us, let us not allow Orwell to be right about this, I implore you.