Manitoba·Opinion

The English language is being LOL'ed and WTF'ed into oblivion

The irony is that the English language is being assaulted by the same individuals who spend the most time talking to each other, whether by text, phone, online or in person.

Will future generations be able to communicate fluently rather than grunting, pointing and F-bombing?

It would be wonderful to think that future generations will still be able to communicate with each other fluently, elegantly and concisely; using letters and words, rather than grunting, pointing and resorting to cave paintings. (Robert Short/CBC)

I was standing in line at 7-Eleven last week, waiting to buy a stamp, when I had the unfortunate experience of listening to two twenty-something dipsticks who had apparently forgotten three things: Their manners, their common sense and their "indoor voices."

I know, I know. You're shocked. A stamp?  

But I'm a throwback; I like to mail things to people now and then. Especially when those people don't own a PC, like my darling mother. But I digress.  

Yes, these two young men ahead of me in line (let's call them Og & Grog) were engaged in what is commonly referred to as "banter," talking like they were stuck on a desert island: I mean, I don't know where else they could have thought they were, considering the language they were using, and how loud they were being.  

I was tempted to ask them to explain to me in what situation other than total privacy or living on a pirate ship would two people drop F-bombs faster than Kevin Hart at a Justin Bieber roast? 

Other lucky witnesses to this eloquent exchange included an elderly woman and a young mom with a toddler in tow.

Only one thought crossed my mind throughout this cringe-worthy confab: Do you kiss your mothers with those mouths?

The sad part of this is that I'm fairly certain that you are reading this and nodding your head.  

"I hear that all the time", you're likely saying.

And it's true. We are living in an age when the English language is under siege and getting weaker by the moment.  

The irony is that it is being assaulted by the same individuals who spend the most time talking to each other, whether by text, phone or in person, like my little buddies at the convenience store.  

Frankly, it's not just the swearing that's ruining the language: It's the spelling, the grammar, the syntax. Heck, it's everything.  

I think it could be argued that it started with Prince (he of "I Wud Die 4 U" fame) and it's been deteriorating faster than Kim Kardashian changes her hair colour ever since.  

I realize that I am a stickler for language, considering that I write for a living and I consider hanging out at the local library a good time.

Heck, I spent four years dissecting the English language in all its forms (14th century poetry, anyone?) just for fun. Or a university degree. I can never remember which. 

It's just that I don't buy the idea that those of us who are concerned with proper spelling and grammar and who consider foul language an inherently lazy form of communication are simply over-educated eggheads who have nothing better to do than worry about the difference between "your" and "you're" (yes, there is one).  

It's our language, folks. Humankind spent thousands of years coming up with this stuff for a reason. It's how we communicate our thoughts and feelings and wishes to each other. Without a common language and rules for its use, we wouldn't have Shakespeare's plays, Churchill's speeches or Nelson Mandela's letters from prison.  

People have fought and died for the right to express themselves.  

The speeches of great philosophers from hundreds or thousands of years ago still have the power to inspire us, to make us think, to change the way we see the world.

That's why I can't understand why something as crucial as language is valued so little, especially by the most communicative collection of humanity in the history of planet Earth.

I read posts on social media that are so filled with spelling mistakes, poor grammar and lacking in any sort of coherent punctuation that they are nearly unintelligible, yet I'm told that I'm being too picky, that these things are just not that crucial. Really? 

I find it ironic that the written word, once rare as clothing at a Victoria's Secret fashion show, is now in danger of being LOL'ed and WTF'ed into oblivion by the very individuals that want to be able to express every single solitary notion as it comes into their heads.  

When I was growing up, my dad taught me the value and power of our language.

I regularly woke up on Saturday mornings to the sound of him at his typewriter, hunting and pecking at lightning speed.

He wrote and edited the local legion bulletin, wrote a radio play for Remembrance Day, even had a regular column in the local newspaper.  

He read aloud to me and my brother, everything from Greek and Roman mythology to Rudyard Kipling and Dr. Seuss.

Despite the fact that my dad hadn't gone any further than high school, he knew that being able to express himself clearly and precisely via our shared language was absolutely essential.  

He made it clear that swearing (if it had to be done at all) was an art form.  

He would never have lowered himself to anything so mundane as a string of F-bombs, unlike my pals at the convenience store.  

In short, words matter.

So to all the Ogs and Grogs out there: No more potty mouths, please. And quit it with the cruddy spelling and grammar while you're at it. Spellcheck was invented for a reason.

It would be wonderful to think that future generations will still be able to communicate with each other fluently, elegantly and concisely, rather than grunting, pointing and resorting to cave paintings.  

I'm begging you. Watch our language.

Jo Holness is a Winnipeg writer.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now