Tuesday 01 April 2008

Urban Decay Of Our Language

Having English as a second language, mastering its massive vocabulary and awkward syntax in everyday speaking and writing has always been a personal challenge for me. It is a language full of neologisms, slangs, jargons, slurs, and colloquialisms: rules that make little sense to any outsider (including me) not familiar with the cultural context from which their uses are derived. Those who practice these rules argue that it is in the nature of our language to evolve and to adapt to the changing needs of its users. While I concur that a language needs to be “living” to remain useful, I too argue that modern English is currently suffering a rapid decay rather than enjoying an enlightening renaissance. This “urban decay” (a takeoff of “urban talk") of our language, as I call it, liberalizes words and idioms to carry a wide array of nonspecific (more often nonsensical) meanings that are uttered without any due consideration of their true intent. To have a single cuss word (yes, it is that word) that is a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb all at the same time is neither hip nor trendy. Rather, it speaks only to the laziness of its users failing to be precise, leaving the audience to guess (often wrongly) its intended meaning. We must act to preserve the richness of our language—not to regress it to a collection of monosyllabic sounds.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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