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Schyzophrenic Language

I’m tired of writing about the Ontario Provincial Election (I’m actually tired of thinking about it if you want to know the whole truth). I need a break from it so I’m not going to write about it until after the leader’s debates. Instead, I’m going to write about Jasper.

I’ve mentioned my dog Jasper more than once in this blog and if you have read my previous posts, you will know by now that Jasper is an 8-year old Springer Spaniel with way more energy than I have and more than a modicum of common sense. He doesn’t speak much having a limited vocabulary that is comprised of a few barks, growls and the occasional woof but despite the minimalist language, he can communicate quite effectively, especially with his eyes.

Jasper has very expressive eyes. They can alternately be sad, excited, happy, exasperated (usually with me but never with Maggie), bored, interested, annoyed and amazed that I really can be that stupid at times. He also uses his tail for some communication although there isn’t much to his tail so he often has to include most of his hind end to get the point across. Sometimes his back end is moving so vigorously, it really does look like the tail is wagging the dog.

I know way too many people that could take a lesson from Jasper.

With only a couple of exceptions, I’m not interested in having them try to communicate with my by wiggling their hind end but it would be nice if they learned to verbally communicate more precisely. Too many people use far too much language to express simple concepts, sometimes to the point where the meaning of what they are trying to say is completely lost.

It starts with stupid phrases like “we’ll wait to see how it all plays out” instead of “let’s see what happens”. The same message that can be delivered with four words, stretched to be delivered with eight. One of my favourites used to be in the U.S. Army Quartermaster’s catalogue. If you were looking for a zipper for something, you didn’t look under “Z”, you looked under “I” for “Interlocking Slide Fastener”. Three words to say what can be said in one.

We misuse words as well. We too often use impact when we really mean affect, use concept to replace idea and prioritize instead of setting priorities. The internet and text messaging are spawning a whole new form of languge that is about one step above cave drawings. BBW for big bold woman, LOL for laugh out loud and Gr8 for great. How about ROFLMAO. That means “rolling on the floor laughing my ass off”. Here’s a message I received once. “C U Tx.” It was internet/text speak for “See you, thanks” but I thought it translated to “See you in Texas” and I really didn’t want to go to Texas.

I sometimes play games online and most of the sites have chat capability. I’ve tried following the chat but can’t figure out what most people are saying. What does, “np gor1” mean? It meant, “Nice play, Gorgon 1” which was the online identity of one of the players. I thought the sender had leaned on his/her keyboard by mistake and a bunch of random characters had been sent.

Maybe I’m just getting to old to keep up, I know the daughters think that’s all it is but I’m not so sure. A lot of effort went into creating language, all languages and this looks less evolutionary than like erosion.

In Canada, the French have become almost fanatical about trying to protect their language and culture while we English folk are busy trying to change ours. The problem is that we’re schyzophrenic about it. We can’t decide whether we want to devolve the language down to a series of symbols and combine letters and numbers to make words or evolve it into something so grandiose nobody knows what in the Hell you’re talking about.

I do believe language is organic and that it should evolve and grow but in a logical manner. English is a language that evolved from French, Saxon, Latin and a bunch of smaller languages along the way. I don’t expect the English language, or any language for that matter to simply get frozen and never change. God knows that there is nothing pure about the English language but it has its beautiful moments. Simplifying language can be a good thing but don’t devolve it back down to grunts and symbols. We already tried that and have moved on.

It’s kind of a shame to see language being eroded by the politically correct, those too lazy to spell out an entire sentence and those who’s despite all the words they know and use don’t have a functional vocabulary any broader than Jasper’s.

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