Saturday, 26 April 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is linguistic whateverism, and thank you to The Economist for this word. The last issue of The Economist included a wonderful supplement, Nomads at last, on mobile telecoms, and it has lots of perceptive and valuable things to say. But its conclusion is uncharacteristically gloomy: As language goes, so does thought. The point being that mobile telecoms have led to a decline in language as it is abbreviated and attenuated in the way we use text.

Quoting Naomi Baron's book, Always On (the ultimate source of this word of the day) the article suggests that "For about 250 years, the consensus in Western societies has been that grammar, syntax and spelling matter, and that rules have to be observed. That consensus now appears to be at risk." If the contemporary digital nomad writes and reads in snippets, does this mean that thinking is reduced to snippets - "which is to say incoherently" - as well? The conclusion of The Economist, as always, is unbeat - there will be a correction, as there always is with technology.

Meanwhile, out in whateverism land, the world wide but often shallow web, the concepts of whateverism, and more specifically its linguistic version, are growing. There are efforts to define the concept. For example David Lundin refers to it this way: "Whateverism is about accepting things as they are, it’s about reaching the point when you realize that you can’t change it, and therefore is not in need of mourning." As an older person who is proud of overcoming early tendencies to unnecesary linguistic pedantry and taking on some linguistic permissiveness, it is nevertheless impossible to be a whateverist. There is a point where linguistic standards are necessary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An interesting item, which made me chuckle.

Firstly because you say 'unbeat', where presumably you meant 'upbeat'.

Secondly, because you have typed 'unnecesary' instead of 'unnecessary'.

Thereby proving your point in both cases, even if inadvertently.

Cheers, Debbie