demark!

How much “free-berty” do we have with English?

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Where I’m at: D.C.

What I’m doing: finishing up another day of French

Why I’m posting: testing the bounds of my native tongue after another day of butchering my new tongue

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Perhaps my favorite American has struck again. I am, of course, talking about Sarah Palin. And by “favorite,” I mean I have an emotion for her that must rhyme with “soul-wrenchingly disturbed by her grotesque inability to do anything, ever, worthwhile to promote America as not the dumbest country on Earth.” (Please someone respond in the classic “Celebrity Jeopardy on SNL” style of “light urple.” You tube it. It’s funny.)

Anyway, she once again tried to use the word “refudiate,” which is one of many words she’s tried to invent. For some people, Twitter is a very dangerous thing indeed. Not to mention that it was posted as part of an inappopriately anti-religious (except to Christians perhaps) tweet. The general laughter at her gaff caused her to make another gaff, followed by an attempted salve where she compares herself to Shakespeare (article here: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/07/palin-invents-word-compares-he.html?wpisrc=nl_pmpolitics) and says that English is a living language.

And you know, she’s kind of right. Languages (except Latin) are alive and do change, though I question the wisdom of letting Sarah Palin be the one to change ours. After all, people like Stephen Colbert, Ray Kroc, Steve Jobs, and others constantly add words to our lexicon. So I wonder, who should be allowed to add words to English? Is there an IQ minimum? An accomplishment minimum? A popularity minimum? Can I do it? I mean, I make up lots of words and phrases…should I call Webster’s?

Post your thoughts/answers:

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Who said it: Steve Miller, who speaks of the “pompatous” of love

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    • Surprisingly, I don’t have as much trouble with anyone – especially suddenly crude-mouthed Sarah Palin – de-sanctifying words that were formerly taboo. I think the Professor’s comments in this article are right on: taboo is about moral shame more or less arbitrarily attached to certain notions and sounds. When something is removed from that taboo world, some other word will replace it or else society in general will stretch itself against the confines of language in a kind of artistic way. I don’t lament the loss of taboo against words like “crap,” “piss,” or “damn” that I had growing up. Those words give English more color. Buuutttt, they’re already recognized words. Does “refudiate” deserve a place in the English language? To me, no…at least not yet. Accidental blunders that lead to commonplace usage is an acceptable way to expand the language in my eyes. But that same thing makes learning French (or any other language) frustrating at times, not to mention driving Scrabble players up the walls!

      Thanks for the comment, Evan!

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