Hey, I have a good idea: Let’s eat Grandma.
Whoops!, I mean to say: Let’s eat, Grandma.
Today, I received an email with an attachment, a photo of a T-shirt that states boldly:
LET’S EAT GRANDMA.
LET’S EAT, GRANDMA
COMMAS SAVE LIVES
I’m going to buy it and wear it every day for the rest of my life, taking it off only to wash it once in awhile. It will be my perma-shirt. Next time I become involved in a discussion and/or argument about why commas are important, I can just point to the T-shirt.
Many people say, “Oh, what’s the big deal? So what if I’m lousy at using commas? People know what I mean.”
Well, I beg to differ. If someone emails me to say we should eat Grandma, I’ll call the cops.
Kidding aside, that T-shirt is a good reminder of the need for English classes. Like the lost art of penmanship and letter-writing, correct grammar, spelling and punctuation have been debased due to sloppy misuse and outright abuse.
What has caused such debasement? I don’t blame teachers. Teachers, these days, seem to get blamed unfairly for just about everything. I tend to think one cause of language debasement is people who seem to relish unlearning what they hated to have to learn. Another reason, probably, is our emailing/texting that results in a hurried sloppiness and all kinds of rapid short-cuts, such as u for you, r for our and the dropping of commas and apostrophes as in the example of “Lets eat Grandma.”
Another reason, possibly, is there seems to be an ascendance of the “visual” (photos, images, symbols, graphics) at the expense of written language. Some magazines have become razzle-dazzle visual kaleidoscopes in which text, at best, becomes just a lesser form of the “visual.”
The same is true of many email communiques – mainly visuals accompanied by rapid-fire writing, a hybrid (and hyper) breed of shorthand. It’s understandable because many people are not adept typists, and sometimes even the best typists do not want to take the time for proper usage. Nobody’s perfect. I can guarantee there are examples of sloppiness in many emails I write, although I try to avoid them. What’s happening, I think, is email communiques will eventually evolve into a virtually different kind of language, with more and more improvised “rules” and peculiarities spawned from improper usage. Such email sloppiness and short-cuts will “catch on” contagiously, for better or worse.
Language is a culture that is and always was in a constant state of evolution. As in geologic evolution, change is its ever-present lifeblood. Thus, it’s possible email styles might even invigorate written and spoken English. However, I have a hunch the influences will be mainly on the negative side.
On a Nov. 12, 2012 news show, I heard TV commentator Chuck Todd, a brilliant man, say this: “The president would have almost TOOK that deal.” It was yet another awful case of using a simple past verb instead of the past participle form – “took” for “(have) taken.” Professional communicators are supposed to set good examples, and yet increasingly I hear them say “pundint” for “pundit,” “eminent for imminent,” and bloated phrases like “learning environment” for “school” or trendy buzz words and phrases such as “stakeholders” and “social capital.”
Here is a hypothetical example of butchered English in an email: “Hey, lets eat Grandma. Ive alredy ate but still hongree. u r the best kookie maker. b rite thare for kookies then have two go too lerning enviromint to lern sum stuff to git smart so I can b a steak holder sum day and get sum soshal capitul.”
If that kind of lingo evolves into standard “Inglish,” our language will be in a sadly debased state, indeed.