Monday, July 19, 2010

Losing the Poetry in the English Language

Those of you who saw it on our Facebook page, about a week ago I said that I was going to talk more about the link to the New York Times article that I posted.  I said I would do that at the end of the week but didn’t get to it until today so I apologize for that.  I hope you all had a chance to read it.  If not, you may want to take a look at it now.  Here's the link:

Well I also indicated that the issue being reported worried be.  Actually it doesn’t just worry me; it angered me.  It angered me because it shows that there is no or very little appreciation for the English language by its own speakers.  There’s little appreciation for it because we, in this commercially overly competent society want things fast and in as little bits as possible as far as information goes.  Hence the abbreviating and acronymization of not only words, but even abbreviations and acronyms themselves, such as "Y.M.C.A."  As the above New York Times article indicates they are dropping all the letters except the initial one in "Y.M.C.A." and so are calling it the Y in its marketing and branding.  Yes, it's been nicknamed the Y for a long time, but now they want to make it official and use it in their advertising.  

What's wrong with this?  Well relating to what I said above, the abbreviating of names shrinks the language and therefore rids it of its connotations of experience. Therefore it gets rid of the concrete meaning that the full name connotes.  The full name of "Y.M.C.A." is "Young Men's Christian Association."  Aside from the fact that Y.M.C.A. is now a secular institution and so does not necessarily cater to young guys who are of the Christian faith, I'm using this organization's name as an example to show that when a name is abbreviated, and on top of that  the very acronym that it's abbreviated into is further abbreviated down to a single letter, it annihilates the very history behind the name and so it becomes a cold abstract set of symbols, or worse yet just one symbol.  Sure, after all these years "Y.M.C.A." does convey what it has become: a place of activity and recreation.  But that's just the problem, now that this acronym has barely (relatively speaking) just become an indication of the what it stands for, (activity and recreation) it's becoming reduced even more.  

Now the article does mention that this abbreviating of names goes along with this era of texting and social networking such as Twitter.  That's perfectly fine in those instances since their very nature is simplifying the language that is being written to communicate with someone in the fastest and most practical way possible.  But to keep doing this on brand names shown to the public in ads and business signs and making it official is only cutting out the very poetry and therefore sensuality in the English language.  

So are we going to let our literature of today and onward become written in this way, this way of abbreviating everything?  Are we going to let 1984's newspeak drown out the poetry of our language?  I hope not.  

Steven R. 


Sylvanopolis Writers' Society said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I understand that languages evolve and change over time, but this evolution usually brings growth. How many thousands of words have been added to English since Shakespeare's time? However with chat speak and texting lingo becoming more and more the norm, I fear that English will begin to erode and our vocabulary will decrease for the first time in centuries. As you said, for mediums like texting or twitter where the number of characters is limited, abbreviations and compacted thoughts are acceptable. To see such practices carried over in day to day life, though, is saddening.


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