I will do better in 2011
While I suggested yesterday that a resolve to wear a bow tie in 2011 would be a fully acceptable and sufficient new year’s resolution—as it is—this is basically a language blog, and perhaps some of you were wondering when I might once again write about language.
Let me help you out with the composition of your own new year’s resolutions with a few about language. Pick and choose, mix and match, as it suits your capacities.
I will not whinge* about the way the Young People talk and write. Tiresome older people have always done so, and yet the language has not degenerated into word salad. Remember that the Young People are adopting that lingo to shut you out of the conversation. If you really want them to stop, try to use it yourself, and they will drop it faster than they will block you on Facebook.
I will not talk about the decline of English, the encroachments of barbarism on the language, &c., &c. English is still doing very nicely for itself, thank you very much, and does not require your assistance or protection. It started out by discarding much of the grammar it got from Anglo-Saxon and then sluttishly appropriating great quantities of French—and anything else it brushed against over the past millennium. It goes its own way.
I will not assume that everything Miss Thistlebottom or Sister Scholastica told me about grammar and usage when I was a mere tot is permanently and universally valid. Stop parroting nonsense. Superstitions, shibboleths and zombie rules abound in classrooms (and newsrooms), and people have an uncanny capacity to forget valid information while holding the bogus in a tight grip. It wouldn’t kill you to check things out in Garner’s Modern American Usage or Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, or—I blush to suggest—this blog.
I will not make or contribute to lists of pet peeves. Is there something about peevish people that you perversely admire? Do you want to be numbered among them? Besides, indulging in many of the common peeves will violate the previous three resolutions. Stop it. Stop it now.
There could well be more, but I don’t want to lay a heavier burden on you than you can bear. The current year is just about gone, and the next one has not yet been spoiled. Lift a brimming glass at midnight and drink to the hope that in the coming months we will all speak and write with more accuracy, clarity, force, and grace.
*Also, I will not feel aggrieved at Americans who like the sound and sense of British words like whinge. It’s still a common language. Read some Wodehouse, for Fowler’s sake, and everything will be tickety-boo.