On August 15 1995 the English language changed.
The launch of the Microsoft Windows 95 operating system triggered wildfire growth in
home computer ownership, and therefore also in the frequency of written communications.
Emails, texts, tweets, and online comments now vastly dwarf the number of letters people used to send. Never in history have so many people contacted each other.
Consequently, we are living through a paradigm shift in the evolution of our language.
English is changing faster than ever before.
Tomorrow’s historians will study us, and this will be deeply embarrassing.
You see, it might have been expected that this change would herald a golden age for the
English language. Surely people would want to be perfectly understood, to write vibrant prose, to command an argute vocabulary.
The opposite happened.
We invented textspeak. We created acronyms like LOL, ROFL and OMG. As phone technology improved, little yellow faces called emoticons, with smiles, frowns and other indeterminate expressions, appeared. It is a laughably inadequate way to communicate.
The language is under attack.
In this column, I intend to champion proper English.
This will not be an exercise in impenetrable orthography, nor, I hope, ever a dry lecture in stochastic grammar. It will be a celebration of plain English of the type learned in the three Rs.
I will, among many things, complain about apostrophe usage and people attempting to
emphasise their opinions by using words they clearly don’t know the definition of.
I revere and respect our language. I admire its beauty and versatility.
I believe “dappled” is one of its most beautiful words. I am fascinated by idioms and idiolects. I have a partisan opinion on the Oxford Comma. I feel sorrow when I see “under way” as one word.
I’m a native of Courier Country. I grew up
hearing and using the same words as you, and was taught to put them into sentences the same way you were. I’m no linguistics professor, but
have worked with the language, as a journalist
and author, for almost 40 years.
I have a love-hate relationship with
dictionaries, I have a reasoned (though possibly
controversial) view on written Scots.
I will will welcome comment and suggestion, I will accept criticism, I will to opposing views.
It’s nice to have met you. See you here next week.
Word of the week
Sharp, perceptive, shrewd. From the Latin “arguo” (I clarify). E.G. “She uses her argute
vocabulary to gain an advantage in debate”.
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier