Friday, March 27, 2015

Hating the Language

I have a historical adventure story in my head that I'm a little bit intimidated over writing.  It's not the story part; I'm getting used to that.  No, it's the language.  I mean, I can barely keep up with changes to the mother tongue in my own lifetime; how am I to handle it 400 years ago?

Now, I grew up in a linguistically unpretentious region in the southern United States.  Back home in Mississippi, we might've used a metaphor or two to make ourselves sound cooler'n a....  Um, smarter'n a....  Well, you get the drift.  Anyway, that was the extent of our linguistic shenanigans, generally speaking.  Words just plain meant what they meant back then.

Okay, I know what you're thinking, and you're right.  There is one rather well-known exception to my previous statement, and it has to do with blessing peoples' hearts when there really isn't any blessing being done to any hearts whatsoever.  In fact, it didn't just mean one thing; the phrase could be used to signal all sorts of sentiments.  The connotation depended -- and still does -- entirely on usage.  For example, the three words at the end of "my cousin's entire mobile home park was taken out by that tornado, bless their hearts," mean something entirely different from the three words at the end of "they found the permanent markers to use in drawing on my kitchen wall, bless their hearts."  Same words, different intention, and if you didn't catch it, you're as sharp as a cue ball.

Back then, though, it should be pointed out that we didn't have an Internet to pass things around, either.  When I moved to California to finish high school, they actually thought I was wishing blessings upon their hearts.  Now, I did, very quickly, stop contracting "you" and "everyone" into the vernacular "y'all," but that was simply because I didn't enjoy the attention that the shortened, more flexible utterance brought me.  Overall, the language was the language.

Now?  Sheesh.  The "mother tongue" has spawned some really strange offspring.  Thanks in part to the rapidity of dissemination and complete lack of grammar checking on the Internet, linguistics has gotten nuttier than a squirrel turd.  I mean, do you remember when literally and figuratively meant opposite things?  Recently they literally changed the dictionary definition so that they're the same word, but only if you mean 'em that way. And then there's gay.  Used to be that word meant happy, lighthearted, carefree, but my generation was pretty effective at redefining it to refer to someone who is homosexual -- because, um, someone who is homosexual is obviously happy, I -- um, guess.  Now, though, it means something completely different.  How gay is that, right?

And what's up with hate?  Growing up, to hate meant something fairly specific.  You knew if/when you were being hated on.  That, though, was before the haters and the haters of haters got hold of it.  Now, if you write a law that somebody disagrees with, you're hating.  Meanwhile, if you disagree with said law, you're hating.  If you disagree with the disagreement--you hater, you! 

(that said, let's please leave the actual political stuff to my personal Facebook page)

I hate it.  Literally.


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