I am currently struggling through a Graham Greene novel and have noticed that this post-war writer is using a style that no longer exists and I feel that I have been left behind as well. As the New Year is not yet in full swing, I feel like a fossil since I like complete sentences filled with words I can relate to. But in this age of texting and social media, I am a dinosaur about to be obliterated by a comet while those ankle biting hairy mammals are going to carry on. I don’t usually use this space in my blog for essays, I felt that I should start the year 2021 with where I fit in as a writer. I still use complete sentences and I do not use acronyms to get my point across much less emoji’s. It is time to bring proper grammar back as well. I know this is a radical and revolutionary idea, but using your language correctly, you should not be criticized rather be admonished for good behavior. Already I can feel the pushback that will come of this.
Let me attack acronyms first, BRB and LMAO do not always speak to me. Sometimes you just have to write it out. I was taught to write it out and put the acronym in parenthesis ( ). When I was in the United States Air Force (USAF), I was an NCO (Non-commissioned officer) or an enlisted supervisor having the advantage of being paid a lot less than a commissioned officer or someone that had a four-year degree prior to serving. Still, in writing NCO, I made sure I had “spelled it our first” so that the civilians who read my correspondence would know what I was talking about. If you were to ask my students what they get sick of me saying over and over again, I’d bet every single one of them would say, “use complete sentences.” Yes, there are times when complete sentences are not needed, but always use them just in case you fill out a job application and a grammar Nazi, like me is reading it. If this happens, you will not get the job and that would be a crime.
Writing has rules and structure. These rules are changing, but until they do, use complete sentences. Recently I received some very harsh criticism as feedback from an editor (so harsh the editor apologized) for using long and complex sentences. It is how I was taught to write, in doing so, I also use a variety of sentence patterns which is strong writing. Adding an F to LMFAO does not vary the sentence in any way whatsoever.
What about the words? In one of my favorite videos, John Branyan tells the story of “The Three Little Pigs” as Shakespeare would tell it and I always LMAO. But the sad fact is this video illustrates the erosion of my language in terms of the words we use. In watching “Dick Clark’s New Years'' (yes, I know the man is dead, but I like music), I found out what I speak and write won’t be the same language I learned in school. WTF? I understand with K-Pop and the Tex-Mex groups that have become popular since the rise of Los Lobos, there will be infiltration of words from other languages into my headset. Learning words and phrases from other languages makes us smarter, but then I listen to Rap and suddenly I am lost. It is English with a heavy beat like the Beat Poets of the past, but the words are morphing into a new language I don’t speak. I also understand that as an old white male, I am not the target audience, but man, this boat is far from the dock into some very deep water. Do not get me wrong, seeing some of the groups perform, there was little doubt as to what they were communicating as they fought to keep a costumes malfunction from occurring. It reminds me of when I substituted in a first grade class and did not complete one sentence or complete thought throughout the entire day as I tried to keep control of this over energetic classroom.
One example of how we are always inventing our language was evidenced when I was working with people with mental disabilities trying to get them to write a decent resume. One afternoon, listening to the radio (yes, I am old) that Oxford had added “Bling-Bling” to their dictionary. I felt at that moment in 2004, our language was on the road to deterioration and has been marching steadily in that direction ever since. I say this TIC (Tongue in cheek), because Samuel Johnson had the same sediments when he felt his beloved language was being abused by the less educated, so he wrote the first dictionary of the English language. He wasn’t doing us a favor by giving us a universality to our language, he was being an elitist. Nathaniel Webster, however, gave us the American Dictionary as a way to provide a national pride in a fledgling nation. Most British people I have met, feel this is a rather inferior effort from a bunch of colonists. So in conclusion (the way I teach my students to write a conclusion paragraph), language is a human invention so we can make sense of the noises that come out of our mouths. We have the gift of making these abstract noises make sense in what we call language. Language changes with the people who speak it. If you were to go to Australia, you’d begin to wonder if they were speaking the same language.
I will end with a true story. In 1981, I was sent to an RAF base in Germany (Royal Air Force is what the Brits call their Air Force) and missed the last bus at lunch back to the flight line where I worked. This meant a ten mile walk. So one foot in front of the other, I hoped to be back by 2 pm (tea time). A car pulls up and driving is a British captain from Liverpool, He offers a ride. I was in the back seat of his convertible before I realized I did not understand a single word he was saying. All I could decipher was he wanted me to take him to our commander since he was with British Intelligence. Somehow I managed to pull this off, but it certainly was a lesson in language and who is using it. No man is a rock, no man is an island, but the more language changes the more I am feeling I need more suntan lotion while I am on my island. TYVM (thank you very much).