I love the English language.
Well, “love” may not be the right word, actually. Let’s say I am “fascinated” by the English language. It is that spotted dog in the kennel with different colored eyes and a tail that doesn’t quite fit any generic description of a dog tail that we may have heard before. You know the dog I’m talking about — the one you can just stare at for hours and change your mind 74 times regarding the mixture of breeds it took to create such a creature.
English is a living, breathing organism, originally crafted together from bits and pieces of older, more established languages, and constantly changing its shape based on the people who speak it.
I always hear people bemoaning the slang young people use today, but let’s be real for a minute: Every generation has had its own slang over the years. “Groovy” ring a bell? “Baloney” when something was unbelievable in the 1920s? “The Bees Knees?”
Every generation of Americans have contributed to the morphing of the English language, and every generation of Brits have done the same thing. If you find a place that speaks English, chances are someone is using a term that you’ve never heard before. If you embrace the old-school English language without change, don’t even try to have a conversation with an Australian. It will make your brain cry.
Of course, I always remember my mother embracing a rule in our home that you can’t use a word unless it is in the dictionary. Nowadays, one would pull out a smart phone and go to an online dictionary in an instant to get a verdict. Back then, you had to go grab the 900-pound dictionary that was often being used in my home as a way to keep a Christmas tree stand from tipping over or a weapon of mass destruction against flies, depending on the season.
Regardless, that was the final word on all things word, and it didn’t matter to my mother if that dictionary was left over from the War of 1812 or not. If it wasn’t in those fly-encrusted pages, it didn’t exist, and you weren’t allowed to use it in the home.
You could say things have changed. The Oxford Dictionary now updates its listings every quarter of the year, and has had to become especially active in this age of technology and social websites with the new means in which we live our day-to-day lives.
Oxford released its newest entries recently, and technology again had a major influence on some of the new words. To be honest, I’m not as wild about some of the “words” that made the cut here, as they appear borne more out of laziness than ingenuity.
For instance, the prevalence of text messaging and Twitter character restraints has popularized abbreviations more than ever before. I accept that, and I’m not one of the “grammar police” who monitor and complain about how everybody abbreviates things these days. The written word is meant as a means of communication, and if I understood what that person meant, than he or she communicated it.
While I don’t have a problem with somebody texting me “srsly” as opposed to typing out “seriously,” I don’t think it should be included in the dictionary. And the same goes for “apols” instead of “apologies.” I know what you mean, but it doesn’t belong in our record of official words.
What I can get behind is “jorts” — that time-tested combination of jeans and shorts that dots our boardwalks on a regular basis and has just been crying out for its own official designation for years. Same goes for “fauxhawk,” the hair style that doesn’t quite require the commitment of an actual mohawk, but has ably replaced the mullet and jheri curl as a hair cut that will cause many to hide their prom pictures from their children decades down the road.
Many of us saw Miley Cyrus “twerk” the other night at the MTV Video Music Awards, even if we weren’t entirely sure what “twerking” is. I saw the video, and I’m still not certain what I was looking at (other than every father’s worst nightmare for his daughter), but I am told that her dancing was twerking.
And now it’s in the dictionary.
Seriously, look it up. And go online to do so, because that old book on your shelf certainly has other purposes now.