10.19.2010

On Words


British comedian/mad genius Steven Fry has given me a lot to think about.

I am uppity about language, passionate about words. I hold a degree in being pretentious about English — a degree! I am one of those people you see rolling their eyes at the misuse of apostrophes and misspellings on fast food message boards. When Steven Fry talks about elitist, pretentious holders of words, who maintain a monopoly on language, he's talking about me. Me, and people like me.

So I feel guilty. Because he's right.

Who am I to hold the words? Why am I more qualified to use them than you are, than she is, than he is? Don't words belong to everyone, in equal parts? Is not language the sum of everyone's thoughts, feelings, emotions, innovations, bright ideas, professions of love and hate and apathy?

Honestly, who am I to keep all of these words to myself? Sure, I know the rules. I know why this comma goes here and this semi-colon goes there. I know what an Oxford comma is, that you shouldn't split your verb phrases, and that over (or under) is volume and more than (or fewer than) is quantity. But why, I ask again, does this entitle me, and people like me, to keep words for ourselves?

What happened to freedom and experimentation? Who is pushing the boundaries now in language, in writing, in storytelling? How many more hypothetical questions can I pose before I drive myself insane, get in the car, and careen off the nearest cliff?

One more, is the answer. Exactly one more hypothetical question.

Why don't more people love words?

If it's my fault, I'm sorry. 

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