How far can we take our language?

It is a hot topic on the blogosphere now: what is happening to the English language? Even in my first sentence I have used a word that has been artificially invented which would be gibberish to someone from only twenty years ago. Clearly, as our society - and especially our technology - evolves, the language must evolve with it. The question is... how far is too far?

Any sociologist or linguist (or dystopian writer) will tell you that if you can't express an idea you can't have that idea. There are some really wonderful examples of this even in modern days. So clearly we need to be able to create words to express novel ideas - scientists do this all the time. Can you imagine not having words like "computer" or "black hole" because the idea they represent wasn't conceived of when the language was developing? Allowing a language to naturally evolve is the only way to let our societies evolve.

And yet there is a growing movement of frustrated logophiles who seek to retain the current, or a recent ancestor, of the English language - at all costs. These folks will wax poetic about wondrous multisyllabic words, archaic verb tenses and the distinction between who and whom. To them, language is art first and function secondarily. Even people who are less logophiles and more simply avid readers are quick to talk about the destruction of the language by txtspeek and teenagers. I don't blame them - when I visit webforums and c ppl talkin like dis, neglecting to correct typos and check basic grammar like the difference between their, there and they're... it makes me frustrated. On the other side of the fence are the people who insist that the language serves the people, not the other way around - so there is no harm in abbreviating or misspelling words as long as the ideas being conveyed are still getting across. I haven't run into one of these people in a while, but I wonder what they think of technology-related evolutions - for example, the proliferation of common typos due to the QWERTY keyboard layout. I am constantly swapping "from" and "form" in my typing if one hand moves faster than the other - is this a language evolution or a mistake?

I am undecided. I love words (though I'm certainly not a fanatic, I've started a tumbleblog for definitions of words I run across that I like) but I also recognize that holding on to a language for the sake of flourish is counter-productive. I think the best way is to let people define their own usages - those who need to convey ideas quickly can use txtspeek and devote little time to learning proper form, knowingly dooming themselves to sounding uneducated and less likely to be taken seriously by those who are more educated. People who have smaller vocabularies must spend more time explaining themselves and may get frustrated by their inability to do so (although for some that will never be a problem...) Others can choose keep the beauty of the language alive though prolific usage of obscure words. This arrangement is actually not uncommon - there has always been a divide between the uneducated and the educated, the lower class and the upperclass. Why we should think today would be any different, I don't know. Free public education has spoiled us and given us high hopes.

I do, however, know what I do. I adopt both - there are words that are so precise, so elegant, so... delicious that I can't not use them. There are expressions and ideas that I adore that are completely out of place in casual conversation. I've startled people by talking about moire patterns, using "voracious" and "cacophonous" in normal conversation, and always, always saying "My friend and I" instead of "Me and my friend". On the other hand, I non-jokingly pronounce apple as "ackle", probably as "proally" zebra as "zeb-bra" and elephant as "lelephant" simply because I like how it sounds better. I create horrible sentences like "Kin has zombs with fwiends later mebe?" and don't bat an eye when I do it.

I firmly believe that the language serves me and therefore I can change it all I want... as long as we agree on the definitions of the words beforehand. As long as we agree we can converse and that is, in the end, all that matters.

But then again, "pedantic" is a sexy sexy word.

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How far can we take our language?

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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."