Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Time was that writing belonged to a mere few. Even kings had their scribes and the recording of events and thoughts was a privilege few could hope to attain. From cuneiform through hieroglyphs, via Latin to all modern languages, few people ever got chance to record their thoughts for the vast majority of humanity's existence.
Much hand-wringing takes place now about text speak and the shortened forms of writing that take place on social media. The contraction of words into more functional forms and the "erosion" of our beautiful language is decried as some kind of crime against culture and articulacy. Poor grammar is held up as an undeniable sign of our the degradation of the quality of our communication

Oh woe! Kids today communicate in all manner of mangled and bastardised  terms! This is the death of our beautiful language! What will become of us? We shall all end up slack jawed ungulates incapable of proper discourse or correspondence! Subtlety of meaning will disappear and misunderstandings will increase with all the attendant strife and conflict that they can bring! We shall drown in a sea of misplaced apostrophe's!

Except, this is not actually what is happening (apart from the apostrophe thing). Quite the reverse in fact. Almost everyone has in their pockets a device of huge power. With this they can access the accumulated wisdom of humanity: encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference works, "How-to" videos on youtube and pictures of eccentric cats in boxes.

And more importantly, they can communicate with each other. Literacy, of a kind, is increasing. Few people would have considered writing a letter even ten years ago, considering the imparting of words on paper with a pen to be generally tedious and something associated with oppression at school. And yet, now, without a moment's thought, teenagers, adults, even grandparents, are committing thoughts to text to share with their friends and family. They are writing!

Where the printing press enabled a few wealthy people to convey their thoughts to others and read those of the Learned, now everyone can be a scribe. Everyone, as I am doing now, can, if they are sufficiently interested, put their ideas out there for others to read and comment upon. It is no longer the preserve of the educated few to commit words to a medium and have it read by others. Anyone can write whenever they like, keep it for later perusal, send it to someone or broadcast it to be seen by a multitude. Anyone.

This has to be good, doesn't it? If communication, even prosaic, quotidian exchanges, is increasing then surely we must be all getting on better (internet trolls aside. Because there are always some that have to try to spoil it). Communication expresses, clarifies, facilitates. It is part of the process of connection, which from my experience, everyone needs. More communication (internet trolls aside) has to help the world get along better, surely?

So, get your phone. Text your mum, if you have one. Or if not, text someone you haven't spoken to in ages and say, using whatever words, non-words or expressions you wish, "Hi! I was thinking of you and thought I would drop you a line. How are you?" It's a golden thread across the sky, arching through the Ether to connect you to another human being. What can be more natural than that?


Friko said...

yes, yes, you’ve made your point.

But how you made it! In what excellent, literary language! No misplaced apostrophes here, no grammatical errors, no “you knows” and wha’evas.

A pleasure to read.

Personally, I dislike sloppy speech, seriously bad grammar and spelling and the lack of the mot juste to express, to a nicety, exactly what it is you are trying to say.

Sorry, PN, I prefer your version of writing.

Librarian said...

Friko has said it all. Here is my signature.


PerlNumquist said...

Thank you for your kind words. But really. though I do occasionally wince at how my beautiful language is mangled and misused, I really don't mind grammatical errors as long as the meaning is clear. The structure provided by grammar and syntax are conventions dictated ultimately by usage and should not enslave us. If meaning is clear, unambiguous and not open to misinterpretation, I really don't mind if infinitives are split and suchlike.
That said, language can be beautiful or ugly. If we are to convey meaning, it might as well be aesthetically pleasing.