A few days ago I wrote what I considered a light-hearted piece about some of the idiosyncrasies of the English language. While I thought it all in jest, the blog resulted in a torrent of negative email responses. Most noteworthy of the critics who took issue with my work was the English language itself, who sent me a return message far too vulgar to reprint in its entirety.
I responded with the following email:
Dear English language,
I appreciate your critique. At Blognoscor, I strive to maintain a journalistic integrity on par with any of the cable news networks. Despite that, I would like to present your rebuttal of my blog. However, Blognoscor is intended to be family friendly (more or less) and as I would feel unqualified to edit a correspondence from the English language himself*, I humbly request a rewrite without so many profanities.
Thank you regardless,
* Sorry to presume gender, but I’m sure you're aware that you, as a language, often demand it.
It took a few days, though I completely understand the delay, but the English language did respond:
I know that you have a number of choices of languages when you speak and I appreciate your continued patronage. For centuries, I’ve tried to remain a user-friendly dialect that would never leave one wanting for description. As I’m sure you understand, this is not an easy task. As I spread in popularity I had to concede to a number of local euphemisms, disputed pronunciation (feel free to tell the British that there’s only the one I in aluminum), disputed meaning (but they got it right on ‘billion’, sorry America) and repeated abuse by musicians and poets desperate for an uninspired rhyme.
For more years than your mortal mind can comprehend I followed and adjusted, added a letter here, removed one there. But in linguistic terms, I was young back then and like you, more beautiful than I am now. I can’t tell you exactly when I gave up, but it happened somewhere along the line and I make no apologies for it now. Why bother with all this trouble for a bunch of tongues that can’t handle spelling ketchup ‘C-A-T-S-U-P’? Why concern myself with sensible spelling for the sake of people who would prefer to communicate via txt spk? For people who use ridiculous acronyms even when they shorten words that are only one syllable long to begin with?
The acronyms alone are enough to cost me my motivation. There was a time when new technology meant new terms, new inflections, new branches of dialogue that would require an ever more beautiful array of florid neology. Now you people use acronyms so superfluous that you feel obligated to add the last word of the acronym after abbreviating it! I cringe when I hear people talk about going to the ATM Machine and putting in their PIN Number. Do they even know that the letters stand for words anymore? Will the radiant echo of laughter one day be replaced by monotone recitals of “el-oh-el”?
And thus to the issues you raised in your blog. The entirety of my rebuttal can be encapsulated in a four-word cliché: Give me a break.
You bring up things like silent letters and the ambiguity of ‘GH’… what kind of petty nonsense is that? Have you ever been to Alabama? Do you have any idea the constant bombardment I am under? Can you even comprehend the futility in changing the rules in a language that everyone abuses to begin with?
Take one of your points, for example. You bring up the apostrophe and try to argue that people’s inability to grasp its proper use is grounds to adjust the rules. But what would be the point? The rules are simple enough as it is and still people manage to get it wrong on printed pole signs! It wouldn’t matter if I standardized the apostrophe use in the word “it’s” because everyone would continue to get it wrong. If I created a unified spelling for “effect”, people would still put the damned “A” in there. If I made “alot” a word people would still put the space in the there. If I made “nother” a word people would probably start saying “a whole snother”.
And so I shrug off your petty complaints. I will continue to evolve as haphazardly as I care to. I will continue to use “GH” to mean anything I so choose. I will continue to confuse the hell out people who never bothered to learn the meanings of “gerund”, “dangling participle” or “indefinite article”. I will continue to offend the eyes of grammar-fascists with my propensity toward misuse. I will continue to craft words with ever more vague meanings while subtly shifting the connotations of existing words. And I will do all of this without the least bit of regard for all of the incessant complaints.
In closing, let me say that if you don’t like the silent letters, go find a different language. Good luck with French.
The English Language
PS I understand that it is not your social convention to make or break, but you people really have to get over the whole profanity thing. I understand the objection when the “F” word becomes a substitute for every third adjective, but the very action of creating words just so that they can offend you is indicative of insanity. All of the languages get together and make fun of you for it.
Let it never be said that I shy away from offering the opposing point of view.