ZOOMERS: The devolution of English

Technology has changed the language in many ways, writes columnist April Lewis

English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England!

Well, obviously, TV’s iconic spokesman of a generation, Homer Simpson, doesn’t think English is necessary and neither does most of the Western world for that matter.

What has become of the English language the way we were taught? Surely, if it is good enough for Her Majesty, it is good enough for us.

I understand cursive writing has gone the way of the dodo bird, what with the onslaught of modern electronic communication devices which only require a thumb and some fingers furtively searching for a few keys.

No pen or writing instrument required.

The rich and beautiful English language has been reduced to the banal in the form of an abbreviated 140 characters.

We are tweeting our spoken and written language into oblivion.

What would William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens have made of this bastardization of our linguistic expression?

In a recently published article in SFU’s newspaper, The Peak, Devyn Lewis writes about this dumbing down of the English language and asks “Is our language becoming reductive? It would appear between texts and tweets, English’s complexity is a thing of the past.”

She cites author George Orwell who, in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, refers to the “slovenliness of our language… which is leading us to the political and economic degeneration of modern civilization.”

She goes on to reference his more popular book of my Zoomer generation, 1984, where “Orwell demonstrates how language can influence peoples’ thoughts and society as a whole, through the simplification of English in what he calls ‘newspeak.’”

This fictitious language is a portent of the decline of the English “language through its simplification via slovenliness.”

Orwell would turn in his grave today as his cynical prediction may have well come true though our Millennial generation’s incessant texting and tweeting and the modern-day simplification of newspeak which is known as “textspeak.”

Is this textspeak the evolution of our language, or is it just pure laziness?

This aforementioned form of communication or texting ignores traditional rules of grammar and spelling, and some words are replaced with letters. For example, “lol” means “laugh out loud,” and “C u l8r” means “I will see you later.” The word “before” becomes “b4,” and so on.

There’s more. There is something called sexting, and I think you can use your imagination.

It is texting with a sexy twist shall we say. The imagination boggles.

And wait for it… let’s not forget wexting. Yes, you know those morons who are crossing at a pedestrian crossing oblivious to the Do Not Walk sign and are texting away.

These are new words introduced into our vernacular just as “faxing” and “googling” are now commonplace in our lexicon. As well as “vaping” (smoking e-cigarettes) and “phubbing” (snubbing those around you while using your phone).

And just when you thought I was done with examples of our post-modern, prosaic erosion of our lingo, along comes “twerking”.

You don’t even want to know what that means. Suffice it to say it involves sexually provocative gyrations with inanimate objects.

My love for words is something I have tried to pass on to my children.

I remember teaching my 11-year-old daughter the difference between the words “indigenous” and “ubiquitous”. One day, she espied a Jeep on Marine Drive and exclaimed, “Look Mummy, there is a Jeep just like Daddy’s… it is indigenous to White Rock!”

Out of the mouth of babes.

In perfect English.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.


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