I think that words produce intelligence.
Yeah, I’ve heard the bits about different ways of learning, how some people hear things, while others need pictures, or social interaction, or so on and so on. I’m sure that there’s something there, but we still rely on words to think through things and to communicate ideas to others. Every video lesson depends on words as much as it does on images. And as the world around us changes and language changes to reflect new realities, entire languages perish, swept away by tsunamis of change. As a child I was forced to study Latin; I never learned the language, but I got the point. It’s about the words.
The teachers who insisted that I study that long dead language were trying to inoculate my vocabulary.
They saw that fashion, by changing meaning, endangered communication; that there might arise instances in which the word I spoke or wrote would carry a meaning that I was not aware of and did not intend.
So when I hear people speaking of ‘healthy’ instead of ‘healthful’ food, I react. And every time I read ‘principle’ where the writer should have written ‘principal’ I react. Same with ‘bring’ and ‘carry’ which do not mean exactly the same thing. At least they used to be different. Now we’re losing ‘carry’.
These collapses make me a little sad because they’re indicative of the slippage that Orwell wrote about. The dumbing down of language and life is happening, apace. Words are disappearing or losing their meaning.
And the Grammarian in me is thoroughly frightened by the latest turn of the screw.
A Trump surrogate named Scottie Nell Hughes declared recently, on the Diane Rehm show, that ‘facts’ as a category of information, no longer exists. It was all opinion and one was as good as another. This was in defense of the President-Elect’s habit of asserting lies with brash confidence.
Trump was not lying if he said, for example, that he was once paid a million dollars for a single speech, because he thought that the actual value of the speech to him was more than twice what he was actually paid for it, which was actually four hundred thousand dollars. Inconvenient truths are dismissed as foolish ‘political-correctness’ and self-serving denial of these truths is openly paraded as brave speech, saying things that most people are afraid to say. A liar’s paradise. And there’s even a place where that kind of lying speech is facilitated — Twitter.
Trump loves Twitter. And Twitter’s boss probably shares the feelings of that cynical CBS chief executive officer, Les Moonves, who remarked on Trumps suitability as a leader of this country — you remember the quote – that Donald Trump in politics “may not be good for America but it’s damn good for CBS”.
Matters have proceeded far beyond the reach of little Grammarians worried about the dumbing down of language and the consequent growth of anti-intellectualism.
The major media need to learn from the fools. Identifying truth with political correctness is silly. Truth is what it is and needs to be spoken and written in plain language. A lie is a lie, no matter the teller.
And we, us Grammarians and the like, we need to think about Samizdat.