Sunday, January 12, 2014
Language is a Liquid
I believe in the idea "If you're going to do something, you may as well do it right." A place for everything, and everything in its place. That sort of thing. But when it comes to language, I'm of two minds.
Mind #1 values correctness. This is the mind I use to screen resumes when I'm hiring. One time I hired a typist who had an error in her resume. I thought "Anyone can make a little mistake. It doesn't mean that she's not a good typist." Turns out she made a LOT of little mistakes. In the end, I had to fire her. There could have been serious legal repercussions from some of her errors. It was not fun. I wished I'd never hired her in the first place.
Mind #2 says that "correct" is only as good as today's consensus. "Shoppe" used to be an acceptable spelling; now it's "shop". Pretty soon "night" might turn into "nite". Pronunciations also change with time. When I was younger, the word "shone" always rhymed with "dawn". Now, half the time, it rhymes with "bone". What about the word "foyer"? Is it proper to say it like the French word of origin "fo-yay"? Or is the American "fo-yer" correct?
I enjoy the slipperiness of language. It tickles my funny bone when a colleague who speaks English as a third language refers to a cookie as a biscuit, pronouncing it "bisk-wit". Mixed metaphors can be quite poetic. I recall another acquaintance, who was going through tough times, describing her life as "all jungled up". I thought it was an apt turn of phrase.
A friend is taking her no-good, drunkard ex to court to settle a divorce case. He claims in his paperwork not to have a drinking problem. My friend said that her lawyer is going to ask for a hair analysis test to prove the truth. "What if he does a Britney Spears and shaves his head?" I asked. Triumphantly, she told me "They can take it from his pubical hair!" That, right there, is how great words and phrases are coined.
So, other than at work, you will not find me on the side of the grammar police. I know how to say and write things properly, but sometimes it's more fun to do it wrong. Like I always say, I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.
Posted by Sparkling Red at 2:24 PM