Think Before You Speak
by Megan Larson
There is an epidemic sweeping through the world. No, I’m not talking about AIDS, cancer, or even diabetes. While these are problems in need of people’s attention, today I’m going to talk about the deterioration of language.
Anyone who has cringed at the sound of a classmate improperly using and overusing the word “like” probably understands how I feel. Instead of its original definition, “like” now also means “said,” “umm” and has essentially become a non-word and a quick way for people to determine your intelligence. And not in a good way. Besides, I’m not even sure how the “like” trend happened, unless we all got so wrapped up in parodying Valley girls in the 1980s and 1990s that we managed to forget we were attempting to be funny.
Some may suggest that this and the 523 different ways to use “cool” (the slang meaning, not the old meaning of “moderately cold”) are merely part of the evolution of language. But when words such as Homer Simpson’s “doh” are added to the Oxford dictionary, it can only be a sign of worse things to come.
Netspeak is one of the prime offenders. Long past its hip status, 13-year-old AOL chat junkies are attempting to keep this horrid trend alive. Unless one is talking about the ancient city of Ur, “ur” is not a word. Somehow, the former option does not seem likely. In the grand scheme of things, it is neither difficult nor time-consuming to write out the entire word in question.
Nevertheless, we seem to always be looking for ways to shorten our words, as though everything we do is rushed and in the long run those extra seconds saved by not typing a few letters or uttering another syllable will add years to our lives. The fact that our world is becoming more and more digital no doubt plays a large part of this. New words are born and old words move from noun to verb with no apparent thought at all. One such example is “text”, which has become a verb with the growing trend of text messages on cell phones. Linguists must be having a banner decade.
Another point I feel I must bring up is the misuse of any word. Granted, this is a problem rooted in basic knowledge and not necessarily in our lax culture, but I’ve heard enough people say “mute” instead of “moot” to almost make me think this was the correct word. Perhaps this is where it all begins? A lack of vocabulary tests in our schools?
I’m not suggesting we return to Victorian-era speech or make word-a-day calendars required, but we would do well to take a few steps in that direction. For many people books have fallen to the wayside while television and videogames have more importance. While some of this is fine, it seems this lack of an “intellectual” lifestyle is what contributes to many teenagers’ disappointing vocabulary. And don’t forget the power of friendships.
Thankfully, the misuse of “like” and other words seems to become less frequent as we get older. Now if we can just speed up the aging process…
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