Thursday, August 20, 2009

You say potato...

So Harry tells me the other day that I need to "get over it" basically, and Harry has known me for most of my life, so his words have weight, frankly.

He explains that language evolves, and therefore these sort of usage changes are inevitable -- whether we like it or not. He cites some of the work his dad has done (Morris Freilich, professor emeritus from Northeastern Univversity -- an anthropologist whose observations are fascinating even when clearly wrong). Harry writes insightfully about language and origins...

Natural Languages "evolve" over time and this process rarely has any logic or reason to it. This applies to vocabulary as well as punctuation. If you look at an English book from 500 years ago, the language looks very different. There is nothing logically wrong with the phrase "wherefore art thou", but this would now be meaningless if we didn't happen to read Shakespeare.

English dictionaries are written based on common usage (after the fact). They are updated every year based on frequency of the spoken and written words. It is all based on a consensus of what is out there. This applies to punctuation as well.

The evolution of language is often related to people finding new things that look/sound more interesting. After a while, some things stick and become part of the language.

Great stuff, right? But then he JOINS "The "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks" because, apparently, some changes in uses are more important than others.

Ouch. That left a mark, Harry.

But he did send me this little bit of child abuse, which makes it all better, frankly.


4 comments:

fengfk2008 said...
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Dragonflysmc said...

No, not silly at all! In fact, quite serious; maybe even life changing. Hey, and rumor has it the paparazzi stalking out your house [on the cusp of your imminent fame and recognition for this important contribution to all humankind] reports that you have a tittle on the road directly in front of your house? Sure coincidence? A plant? An attempt to more attention to yourself? Please, do tell...

BobH said...

You mock. You mock because you love...

Rimpy said...

I can agree with Harry when it comes to some facets of langauge. After all, the apostrophe (one of my pet peeves when misused) was an evolving thing, and maybe still is. But I don't think Harry's argument can apply to upper and lower case letters. They each have their special functions, and mixing them up can do nothing but degrade language. With the possible exception of "fun" fonts, bunging a lot of lower case i's into one's otherwise capitalized sentence just makes you one look sloppy.