A recent article (2May 2006) in the SMH (replicated from the Guardian) opens the article with this claim:
"If you believe the internet is the fount of all wisdom, giving free rein to bloggers to exercise their vocal cords, think again. Ancient English cliches and expressions are being mangled by the culture of cut and paste and the spread of unchecked writing on the internet."
"Mangled by the culture of cut and paste ….unchecked writing on the internet"…..oh please….is the internet and blogging solely responsible for this…. If someone is cutting and pasting, then doesn’t that infer the original document/writing is also incorrect….that is before we even consider the nature or purpose of the writing being referred to!
There’s no mention of sms language and what this is doing to written language….have you ever tried to read a 1,000 word essay written in sms?? I have – and it was a very frightening experience (knowing I couldn’t read it – mainly!). But – isn’t the beauty of English about the constant changing nature of the language? It’s already a mish-mash of other languages, with words adopted/borrowed or stolen from so many others??
It’s about the context of the language. Isn’t it about communication with the intended reader? OK -so there’s spell check – all those little red squiggly lines in Word documents and most weblog editors now include this function – but the problem is more complex according to the article. Here’s some examples:
"Straight-laced" is used 66 per cent of the time even though it should be written "strait-laced"
"Just desserts" is used 58 per cent of the time instead of the correct spelling "just deserts" (desert is a variation of deserve), while 59 per cent of all written examples say a "font of knowledge or wisdom" when it should be "fount".
"butt naked" instead of the correct "buck naked" (perhaps they actually intended to use butt!)
"…another linguistic trend is the American habit of turning two words into one, such as someday, anymore and underway. "
That’s before we start on the mixed metaphors….!!!
So – reviewing these examples – can we blame this on cut & paste and internet writing….I think not….perhaps we return to the teaching of the language… The number of my University students who don’t know the difference between "their" and "they’re" and then there’s the apostrophe issue…punctuation and use of paragraphs isn’t far behind and then…welll, I might stop here…before I get too carried away!
What happened to the concept of English as an evolving language? I think that a language that is such a hybrid mongrel can hardly be thought of in a pure, exact fashion. I think traditional media and other traditional “fonts of knowledge” could be a little bit threatened…..
Yes indeed Graham!
And there doesn’t appear to be any consideration for the genre of publishing medium here either – the intention of communication is to have your message understood, right?