Evolution of Modern Language

Almost everyone knows that almost everything evolves over time, mostly for the better, always pretty slowly, and occasionally in ways that defy the relationship between evolution and progress.

For us old geezers, “words” like cya, gotcha, and the like have sometimes posed a challenge.

With its famous 140 character limit (why that particular number?), Twitter has forced a new language to emerge very quickly. One does wonder, though, if our evolution of language may in fact be going backward rather than forward. Before our early ancestors talked in anything resembling the way we do today, they mainly made grunt-like noises, like the apes from which they descended, porpoises and other animals. When Twitter is replaced by, say, Grunterâ„¢ (which will allow only two sequential sounds), we will have evolved back to the beginning! Darwin couldn’t have foreseen this, and he certainly would not have approved.

But is our language actually being corrupted by technology, or is that simply a generational bias, “old folk” bemoaning the standards and tastes of those who follow? When you hear someone say “smarling”, you wonder if your hearing is going. If you are a Curious George like me, you will ask and I was told that clever word was invented to describe an expression that is simultaneously a snarl and smile. Now, that is not a bad idea, despite the fact those two things rarely go together unless you are a flight attendant.

When you get bumped into on a crowded street by someone whose nose was buried in their smartphone, and they say, “Sorry, I’m a Facebookie”, you first may wonder what races they cover, but if you are clever like me you remember Facebook.

When you have to describe your relationship with someone you really dislike, what can you say that takes the edge off being too frank? A new term covers that pretty well–friendulant, which I take to be a fraudulent friend??

Bette Midler is making a big comeback as a comedic and fiery actress and she is now being referred to as belle-istic. That sounds cool to me!

Some folks – like the keepers of the dictionary flames – may find these new words a great excuse to stay in business, but when the classic big dictionaries (if there will be any left) begin to weigh 30 pounds, how long will it be before the word-choppers start to pare back some old fashioned words like “please” and “thank you,” which will have given way to pls and tks?

Believe me; I did not invent any of this to think of this piece. I encountered a bright, talkative attendant on a recent flight and I took these notes. She evidently has hundreds more.

Free speech is one thing. Faux speech? That’s another matter, entirely.


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