Every morning I wake up and say my mantra. I tell myself English is evolving, changing, adapting as it always has, and that there are more important things in life then getting upset over grammatical errors and malapropisms... and then I get onto the internet. These days everyone is a writer, an author, a communicator with the written word, and no credentials are needed. Websites, articles, blogs, memes created on some meme generator site by people who don't know when to use your/you're or lie/lay leave me ready to put some whisky in my morning tea. And don't get me started about the phrase 'could care less'.
I know, I know, I should take a chill pill. Get off the internet. Even more than grammatical errors I am pulling my hair out over malapropisms. The internet abounds with them and the more they are written and shared around and read by others the more they will be perpetuated. And I tell myself it doesn't matter but that little voice pops up and says 'words matter', 'words have meaning' and I believe this. I believe that effective communication involves accurately saying what you mean. But we live in a time and a culture that likes ideas and the gist of things and what you have to say is more important than how you say it. Perhaps that is sometimes true. We don't need flowery or poetic language for everything but I will still argue for accuracy.
And yet, the meanings of words do change over time and we all seem to survive that. Sometimes they actually take on the very opposite meaning to what they original meant. Sometimes we make one word good enough when we used to insist on two, as in further and farther. The distinction between the two is becoming redundant and I see the point in that. In fact any time I pull some hair out over a malapropism it's not that I don't know what the writer is trying to say. The fact that I do know is part of what allows me to see that the wrong word has been used. It's just that I love words and I love accuracy. I love to understand distinctions and finer points. I have to admit that my own use of the language is not flawless though, and so I am trying to learn to let go in the same way that I have almost let go of caring how people wield a knife and fork. If it gets the food into your mouth in a generally non-repulsive way isn't that all that matters? The point of table manners is to be considerate of your dining companions' level of squeamishness and not to make threatening gestures with a knife. I'd much rather my companion employ strange cutlery tricks than chew with mouth open.
Favourite Poem from Childhood
I eat my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on my knife.
And so, I am trying to nit-pick less about language use and tell myself that I am glad, really glad, that English is not a dead language and remind myself Shakespeare would never have gotten past the Language Police. Now, I'm off to put some whisky in my tea.