Part three of the Journalist X is a Whiny Bitch series (parts one and two, for those playing catchup) finds me skimming the pages of my hometown newspaper, The West Australian, deciding that it’s high time I gave up trying to figure out why people have such an aversion to linguistic change, and that I should just accept that they’re idiots and move on.
The article itself is available online, but being behind The West’s paywall and horrible ‘online newspaper’ interface I don’t think it’s worth directing you there. For those playing along at home, it’s on page 2 of March 25th’s Weekend Extra and is titled Name gayme blues. After a long introduction chronicling her obsession with the unusually spelled names of today’s youth, Phillips gets right to the meat of her argument:
I suppose when it comes to the world’s Emilees and Kerstyns and Madalynns, though, you could always look at it this way; the ability to think up creative new spellings for traditional given names is a real gift.
Or you could look at it this way. People who do it ought to be shot.
Congratulations, you’ve already alienated your readership: the people who did the naming, the people who ought to be shot.
Her reasoning for all this is that the language is going down the crapper, spelling is getting worse, you need look no further than the Internet to see the worst of it in action (yada yada yada), and unusually spelled names are the root. If people “can’t spell” simple names, what chance do real words have? This from a woman whose name is Michele. By all accounts —in this country, at the very least— that’s an unusually spelled variant of the more popular Michelle. In Italy or France it’d be even more unusual: Michele is a boy’s name.
But this is where it really starts getting funny:
I know that language is — and should be — a living, growing thing but worry that the people who come up with spellings like Raychelle and Kaycee are also the ones who get on the internet and write “definately” instead of “definitely”, “loose” instead of “lose” and don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re”, “its” and “it’s” and “their” and “there”.
I love that line —“I know that language is a living thing but…”— because it betrays her so immediately and so completely. Ring familiar? How about:
- “I don’t have a problem with homosexuals but…”
- “I’m not racist but…”
- “I know smoking is bad for me but…”
It says “I’m wrong, and I know I’m wrong, but my opinion is already set in stone” and I can’t help but laugh every time I hear it escape someone’s lips.