Raping the Language

By:  Selwyn Duke
Raping the Language

There are many examples of the dumbing-down of the English language, all of which are driven by ignorance, insidiousness, or both. Whatever the case, we ought to be mindful of the theme of the old book The Tyranny of Words: The side that defines the vocabulary of a debate wins the debate. So watch your mouth — the culture you save may be your own.

Although the creation of the film Idiocracy evidences how we’re already halfway to an idiocracy — the work reflects decadent modern culture — it’s a good comedic warning about where we’re headed. For those too unsophisticated to imbibe such Hollywood fare, know that the movie presents a dystopian future America dumbed-down to a preposterous degree. One thing portrayed in the film is the degradation of language, with, for instance, a doctor character starting an interrogative with “why come” instead of “how come.” And it is a perfect example of art imitating life.

Many today will rape the English language, taking pleasure in mangling and tangling it, confusing corruption with creativity. What follows are examples of such, starting with the relatively innocuous and concluding with the more dangerous.

While journalists are supposed to be word men (those were the days, huh?), they often lead the charge toward idiocracy. It’s not just the news piece I read a few years back penned in pidgin English — obviously by someone to whom English isn’t his first language — but those who try to be “cute.” For example, Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte recently mentioned something that had been revealed and began his sentence with, “The big reveal is....” But unless he was about to apprise the audience of a large window jamb’s existence, “reveal” is a verb, not a noun. The word you’re looking for, Tim, old boy, is “revelation.” Likewise, let’s dispense with the new and budding practice of writing things such as “The tells are there,” which seems to have originated in the poker world. “Tell” is a noun, not a verb. If one wants to “tell” someone about a thing serving as a clue, the relevant term is “indication.”

Oh, just to head the cutting-edge lexical fashionistas off at the pass, I’m aware that some usages I’m condemning may have already infected certain less sophisticated dictionaries. 

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