Shouting into the Storm Rantings, ramblings, observations and musings from the insipid to the sublime

Friday, July 12, 2002 :::
While setting up this blog, I was trying to figure out what exactly is the point of these things? In it's most basic form, I suppose it is to communicate. Doesn't matter if it is scream an opinion to the world, or to simply blather on about the mundane routines of someone's day. It is about communicating to other people. Only the medium has changed.

What is the basic tool we use to communicate? Language. The individual words and phrases we use paint a picture for the reader. Those broad brush strokes reveal a good deal of information to the person on the other end of the cathode ray tube. In short, it isn't merely what we are communicating, but how we do so that is important.

While recently reading John Updike's essay on Ted Williams' last game in Fenway it occured to me how much the American lexicon has been whittled down so much in recent years. I am not refering to the introduction of new slang to the language, either. Every generation adds thier own splash of color on the canvas of the spoken word. This has been a slow retreat to a more basic, almost child-like way of delivering ones thoughts. As far as I can see, the assault has been carried out one two fronts: The verbal and the written.

As electronic communiques became the daily norm, we constantly looked for ways to save precious keystrokes. Entire phrases were shortened to abbreviations. I'm as guilty as the next knight of the keyboard. Almost everyone reading this will understand the following e-sentence: IMHO, u r kewl, ROTFL. Just over 20 keystrokes. Soon, millions of emails and instant messages were flying through cyberspace bereft of any structure given to us by the English language.

At the same time, the hip hop community was rewritting the spoken word. Full disclosure - I am a pasty white suburbanite. I don't get hip hop, either the music or the community. So sue me. Anyway, an example of the new twist on the verbal language - I was working at WVCR in scenic Loundonville, NY. The station was the premier "Contemporary Urban Programming" station in the Albany area. Shortly after New Year's 1993, I saw a note written on the board - "Down wit da nine-trey." Being the pasty white suburbanite that I am, I asked the hip hop DJ in the studio what it meant. Translation - Happy 1993. Get it, the nine-trey? On top of this, there is the intentional mispronounciaction of words, and a general lack of basic grammatical rules. Tense(past, present, future) comes to mind.

This is all well and good, I'm sure you are saying to yourself, but what's the point? Glad you asked. I was reading a blog the other afternoon by a 17-year-old high school student. I needed a decoder ring to decipher the message it was attempting to communicate to me. Three words jumped out at me: mouf, axd(no, I did not leave out the 'e'), noe, and wiff. After several re-reads, I gathered these to mean 'Mouth', 'Asked', 'Know' and 'With'. On both the television and radio, I heard ads from fast food joints and sodas using similar hip hop pronounciations of these words.

This, my dear friends, concerns me.

The language we use is the clothing of our mind and our thoughts. Remember when your mother made you wash behind your ears and put on something vaguely respectable for the first day of school? In case you forgot, she did it so you would make a particular impression upon those who laid eyes on you. Is it superficial? Yes, but it is how our society works. Somewhere along the lines, we forgot that, or at least misplaced it. This lax and lazy way of communicating our ideas has been used by corporations to market music, jeans, soda, burgers and sports. By doing so, it has legitimized it.

If this is what the population at large will accept, so be it. But, why can't we as a whole try to raise not only raise the standard of what we are communicating about, but the way in which we do so. Afterall, do we want to look at the fairly well dressed kid, with thier big smile and shiney teeth going off to first grade? Or do we want to be like the ratty kid with the dirty t-shirt and unlaced shoes sitting in back of the class?

::: posted by Chris at 10:57 PM

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