Perhaps English Isn't Dead--It's Evolved
God knows I love Gene Weingarten. He's a brilliant journalist and humorist. But in his most recent "Below the Beltway" column in Washington Post Magazine, he makes a few assertions that I have to disagree with--albeit they are almost certainly tongue-in-cheek.
Titled "Goodbye, cruel words: English. It's dead to me," his column explores the idea that the English language lays in shambles thanks to misspellings, typos, and abbreviations that are so common in our "era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication."
He points to several pieces of anecdotal evidence to support his point that are funny and true, but certainly not enough to indicate a "death" of the English language. And then he gets to the end, where he takes a few, perhaps unnecessary, swipes at more "pragmatic disciplines":
In the United States, English has become increasingly irrelevant, particularly among young adults. Once the most popular major at the nation's leading colleges and universities, it now often trails more pragmatic disciplines, such as economics, politics, government, and, ironically, "communications," which increasingly involves learning to write mobile-device-friendly ads for products like Cheez Doodles.
Now obviously looking for a laugh, Weingarten surely didn't mean to offend the communications professionals of the world. But unfortunately, there are plenty of language snobs in the world who think along these lines--for real.
It made me pause. Do people really think that abbreviations and concise language are signs of the "death" of the English language? Are new methods of communication like the Internet, Twitter, and SMS really killing our ability to communicate effectively? Is our collective vocabulary dwindling?
I don't think so. I think that our education system needs work--and that's why more young people are using less advanced vocabulary. But I don't think there's anything wrong with these new methods of communication. I still have a perfectly extensive vocabulary, using a plethora of fancy words in a myriad of situations, and I'm no doubt one of the most social media-addicted youngsters around.
As for writing mobile ads for Cheez Doodles--who cares? Selling products--even Cheez Doodles--takes skill and a careful mastery of the English language, even if you don't use every word or technique at your disposal.
Instead, I think the English language is evolving. There's no doubt it's growing--words aren't deleted from the dictionary every year, they're added, after all. And the way in which we use our language and apply it to different situations in different media shows that it's still very, very much alive.