the new yorker recently published an article, “the english wars.” an eye-of-the-hurricane word swirl picture was under the title, seeming very gory and bloodthirsty indeed. i read lustfully. there are two kinds of people in the world, you see. the prescriptivists: those who believe language should be finite, and the descriptivists: those who support linguistic evolution. the article hinged on william strunk’s credo of linguistic minimalism. e.b. white, strunk’s student at cornell university, famously championed strunk’s style in his novels and essays. for both strunk and white, minimalism communicated better than verbosity, although verbosity had been culturally reinforced for centuries. in their essays, they went so far as to say that minimalism wasn’t just about “sounding” less pretentious, it inherently indicated the morality of the writer. in short: people that use simpler language are better people.
my opinion lurks in the crossfire. while i have no interest in sounding like the wife of bath (just looking like her!! ..joak), anyone who loves books probably feels an affinity toward the art of the english language. they want to see its power maintained. because if knowledge is power, and knowledge is preserved through time by language, than language is power. language is infallible. but humans seek to control. english-speaking humans especially (can we agree?). our culture is defined by deconstructing. sir walter raleigh, one of the earliest colonists to come to the united states, spelled his last name 111 different ways. since the earliest english-speaking tribes, wars erupted over grammar and spelling. language and imperialism go hand in hand.
while legal restrictions maintain a relative system of linguistic checks and balances today, some still take offense to blatant disregard for the english language. like my grandfather or some unnamed fellow english majors from kenyon college (u kno who u be, h8as!!!). but these people just seem like they need to get with the proag. the idea that deconstructing english is hip is more culturally relevant, and is where i identify. in particular, i’m talking about why ghetto (linguistically) is funny. especially on twitter. read @ghettohikes. “Gerald stoled my Powerade and act’n like he didn’t. Over there wit a purple mustache. Motherfucka needa recreate me a drink.” what would prescriptivists say about @ghettohikes? would prescriptivists inquisition its ass? would i be persecuted for making inquisition a verb? why do pretty rich white girls love to say SUPER ghetto things? spell things with no vowels and extraneous x,y, and z’s? PLZZ TLL M3. it seems that making a mockery of the english language is, in these analogous ways, the desire to make communication more human. less perfect. absurd, because life is absurd.
so while i agree with strunk and white that minimalism is key, to exert any type of control over language seems futile. homiez gon do what they gon do. <– it goes without saying, clearly, to deconstruct language at your own risk. wynk.