Skip Navigation

Verbal archaeology sounds so romantic

[via Heng-Cheong Leong’s MyAppleMenu] It’s probably unfair to call people who complain about language ‘whiny bitches’ as has become the standard around here. After all, I whine about things all the time and only very rarely admit to being a bitch. Come to think of it, I only go by that handle when I’m in prison, but I digress. Tim Greenhalgh is a whiny bitch; let’s see what he has to say.

It seems that every year the OED creaks at the seams as it concedes to words that have become so widely used, they must be given the OK. There are 355,000 words in the OED and some of the recent entries would make Milton, Keats, Shakespeare and my father turn in their graves.

I have to give him the “turn in their graves” bit because I used it myself last month, but I was taking the piss at the time — Shakespeare is credited with more neologisms than possibly any other writer in English history. To suggest that he’d be unhappy with others taking the same liberty is ludicrous. I really only have a problem with the part that reads “it concedes to words that have become so widely used, they must be given the OK”. Concedes implies the OED has lost some kind of battle, that they were coerced into including specious terms because they’re popular. Surprise! Dictionaries are descriptive accounts of the language as we use it! That’s why it’s always so funny to see organizations harass dictionaries over words they don’t like.

“Posh” is a lovely acronym to describe wealthy or privileged people, a word that derived from Port Out Starboard Home, meaning the better side of a boat on which to have a berth when going on a cruise.

Complete bullshit, of course, but why investigate unpopular (but well recorded) truths when the popular fantasies are so much easier? Backronyms are fun, but the real lesson here is that people love the language they grew up with, and hate anything newer. Crossword aficionados are the worst.

Me, I like new language. I like new language better than I like new music (too much emo). Right now my favorite contraction is I’ma. It’s short for “I’m going to”, as in “I’ma go to the store and get some eggs” or “I’ma go eat dinner”. Unfortunately its current usage (at least where I’ve seen it) restricts it to ‘going’ situations —“I’ma beat your ass” doesn’t work as well as “I’ma come over there and beat your ass” unless you name’s Bubba— but I can see that maturing over time. The sad thing about it is, there are millions of people spread across the globe who would grind their teeth and squint threateningly at me for using such a construction.

Fuck ‘em. Nothing sucks like a dead tongue.

The rest of the article, once he’s done with the language schtick, is quite amusing. Apparently the creative industry lacks ingenuity and would sooner follow whoever has cultural cachet right now (Apple) than do real creative work.

iMac, iLife, iTunes and iPod, (hence “podcast”), have all become so widely used in everyday language that “i” will surely get the OK in the next OED review. The problem for me, however, is that it’s not OK verbally and it’s not OK visually. Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple, but the extent of my verbal and visual language has been somewhat castrated in recent months because I cannot seem to go through a day without referring to some Apple thing as being entirely relevant to the creative debate in hand, meaning most other reference points have now effectively been “cut off” In the same way as everyone who was upper class was regarded as “posh”, (the opposite being the same today for chavs), anything remotely creative has, by definition, to be Apple.

No shit.