After commenting on a post by Claire just now, I thought, what the hey…this needs its own blog entry. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you episode 1 in a surely ongoing saga of real-life travesties of the magnificent English language by all-too-ubiquitous (and, thanks to the internet, self-reinforcing) fools:

Any intelligent lover of the English language nowadays is saddled with a panoply of peeves, I fear.

For instance, what’s up with “predominately” for when someone means predominantly?

Or “principle” to mean the principal amount of a loan?

Or “wallah” for voila?

Heh, I was beefing about this topic in a journal entry not long ago:

Listen, all you dumbasses out there:

You don’t REIGN in something that’s out of control. You REIN it in. As in pulling back on a horse’s reins to slow it down. (D’oh!) And when you do, you don’t say WOAH, you say WHOA. And if the horse doesn’t obey, you don’t LOOSE control of the animal, you LOSE control. Then you don’t WHINGE about “that stupid horse” to the stable groom, you WHINE about it.

What does all this have to do with my beloved usual topic of freedom? And hey, isn’t “proper” language a form of tyranny over the mind? Well, sure, just as much as the rules are over the players in a golf game. No rules = no game = no sport at all (if you consider golf a sport ;) ). No rules = no winner, only losers.

And when it comes to language, the quality of one’s language is directly related to the quality (if any) of one’s thought process, of one’s ability to see relationships. Like why we say “reining in” government spending. (Although in this case, “reigning in” could, ahem, apply in some sense too.)

Hey, I’m all for creative linguistic juxtaposition, poetic license, and all those goodies. I studied languages and linguistics in college, and the linguistics professors liked to insist that “language is productive”–meaning that people over time change the language’s usages, spellings, syntax; they coin and borrow new words; they create new rules and demolish old ones. Same thing happens in golf, which is why there’s a new Rules of Golf published every so often.

Linguistic rules are what give structure and meaning and definition to the flow of ideas. They’re the basic guidelines of the game of communication. And don’t ever forget that it was Lenin who slyly advised dictators, “First confuse the vocabulary.”

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