The English language has died.
Time of death? Probably sometime in the 1100s.
Cause? Sudden Influx of Normans Syndrome (SINS).
Next of kin? English.
I’ve decided, rather willingly to become irate about pedants bitching about the “devolution”, “worsening”, and nearly literal “death” of our wonderful, beautiful, resilient language because people say “literally” to mean “figuratively”, “irregardless” instead of “regardless”, and “who” instead of “whom.”
Fucking teenagers and their 133t-sp34k and their iPhone9s and their having of the pre-marital sex!
Simple and true, our language has died and it was slain by… pedants who insist on made-up rules drawn from Latin, long-winded explanations of how to use what should be simple words, and a need to correct people on when to use specific spellings or “well” vs “good.”
Language, I will and have argued, are not owned by editors, pedants, professors, or teachers. They are not owned by dictionaries or websites. Languages are owned by their speakers going so far to say that there is no correct way to truly speak a language.
English is a prime example of this because it has so many speakers both native and those who rely on it as a lingua franca. It also has a very high percentage of speakers who are well educated and productive members of the so-called first or developed world. It means we have a lot of free-time to bitch about how English is used and spelled.
Only rarely though are the pedants, though, discussing grammar. Often “Grammar Nazis” are really “Writing Nazis”. They’re focus is not the correct use of are language, rather the adherence to spelling and the proper use of commas, and apostrophe’s. Only really rarely do they try to dig any deeper then that and the two big times its they whom are wrong.
“Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.” Okay, that is some real grammar. Why? “Uhh… because it is a rule.” No it’s not. “Yes it is.” No it’s not, it comes from Latin. Do we speak Latin? “No…” Fine, then it isn’t a rule for English.
“Well, as long as you don’t split the infinitive.” There, another grammar point. Why? “Hey, don’t start with me, pal.” No. Why? Why can’t I split the infinitive? It’s two words: to go. To play. To read. To snore. Again, it is a fake rule ripped from other languages. The infinitive in Latin (and in most languages) is one word. Gehen. Spielen. Lesen. Schnarchen. I can’t split the German infinitive because the infinitive is one word.
Well, technically I could it is called infixing. But we don’t have infixing in English which is fan-fucking-tastic.
When people often talk about the “death” of English it is either the so-called misuse of common words or people spelling things strangely, often more phonetically. Neither of those is hugely indicative of the health of our language. Vocab is to a language what wall paper is to a house. Replacing words only yields an encryption, not a new language, unless enough people replace all the same words the same way… and then you get a dialect. Unless those people have an army, then you have a language.
Languages are deep. They have winding, unique histories and they are forever changing. Vocab is the easiest to change because the spoken-word is so very prevalent. Languages are primarily spoken, thought, shared. Even writing like this is more of a conversation, it is more spoken than written – because I don’t edit it, I don’t follow stupid conventions, I literally literally write as I think and that yields a very natural flow of the language rather than some APA approved bullshit.
Vocab changes all the time, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes dramatically, sometimes it makes sense. “Knight” and “Knave” share the same etymological root, but are in many ways opposites. “Faggot” and “Fascist” are similarly linked (they both come from “a bundle of sticks”). “Boy” meant “servant” and “girl” meant “child” regardless of gender. “Hot” can mean temperature hot, it can also mean “sexually attractive”. German has an example of the opposite, geil means “horny” but young people often say it to mean “cool”.
The word “fuck” comes from the Proto-Indo-European word that meant “to strike”. The Latin word for “fist” pugnus shares that root as well. The word “poke” does too, (probably).
So that basically comes to the crux of my problem. Pedants never seem to want to turn back the clock farther than when they were in High School. There is no pedant on the internet seriously arguing that English was best in 988 or that we should really be speaking Proto-Indo-European because that was when language was “best”.
None of them argue to bring back grammatical gender to English, which English had two (Masculine and Neuter).
None of them argue to bring back all of our missing cases. We all know the subject, the direct object… the indirect object. What about the instrumentitive case (which was already dying by the times the Normans showed up)? The genitive? What if I told you that English completely lacks declination. Do we want to bring back fucking declination? Or more complicated conjugation?
No one in their right fucking minds wants to bring back any of that. Because it is complicated and insane.
What English needs, what English has direly called out for these last two centuries has been spelling reform. Our spelling is no longer phonetic. Sure it isn’t as bad as Irish, but our language is hanging onto spelling rules and functions from the 1300s and 1400s because of pedants who cling to the glorious past (and realists who don’t want to replace a billion street signs). All those extra Es on shit? All those extra letters were probably pronounced – because we had no formal spelling rules (remember dictionaries are a modern invention) so people wrote words like they sounded.
Shakespeare wasn’t adding that “e” on the back of his name out of boredom. It was probably literally literally pronounced “Shaykes-peereh”.
So you want to know what? I don’t fucking care that teenagers misspell words. Let them. Maybe they’ll be open to the idea of finally instituting an English spelling reform.
So the next time you see someone chatting in slang or simplifying the spelling of words remember it is they, not you, who is ensuring that English reaches the next generation of users. And hopefully the find it stronger and more useful than ever.
The English language has died and it was killed by pedants.
Long live the English Language.