Is it bad English, or evolving English?

February 18, 2011

It started with a friend, MM, making this update on Facebook:

“if u writ lik dis evn on Fcbook, ur not kewl, ur jst retrded, or illiterate. Or both.”

Of course there were the “I agree with you” comments, but I said,”I happen to disagree….the language is evolving, and rapidly, and whether we like it or not…this is one of the directions it’s taking.”

Others joined the fray; LA said:

“Theodore Roosevelt tried correcting English spelling a century ago. Some of his changes (color, brazen) caught on, while others like “imprest” were ignored. When he lost his bid to be re-elected president, one newspaper carried the headline ‘THRU’ “

and KA said:

” What smug nonsense. Someone from the 16th century would find your “literate” spellings and grammar retarded. Do you spell them magick, daye, admynistre or asleepe? If you don’t, then why all the hate for a particular contemporary variation that you can’t appreciate? Language is for communication, and if there are people who understand each other by using these spellings, it’s as valid as anything else.”

LA responded with

“I don’t think this has anything to do with evolution. This is more about a counterculture which shall be abandoned once it has lost its novelty.

As for ‘language being for communication’, everyone can understand this line. On da othr hnd v …few ppl wld b able 2 immdtly mk sense ov dis.”

and so it went, back and forth. Well, my take on it is this:

One of the things I’ve noticed is that the evolution of a language comes from the masses not the classes, the latter are prone to try and keep up the “purity” of the language as they know it. But the masses are not bothered by such concepts…so they use the language as they wish, and the language morphs and develops.

I recently joined a blog run by a group of youngsters. Their spellings, their usage of English, is very strange indeed to me, and I am, also, tempted to call it “bad” English….but now I do believe that it’s part of the way English is evolving not just to Indlish, but to Kannadlish, Marathlish, Kannadlish, and so on…I can hardly understand English spoken in Singapore, in Africa…er, come to that, I can’t understand spoken Cockney English or Geordie English!

I find this true of other languages too; Hyderabadi Hindi, Mumbai Hindi and Lucknow Hindi…all SO different….Chennai Tamizh is so different from the more musical Madurai Tamizh…and so it goes. But…I always find that it’s the mongrel, the bastard, “hoi polloi” vesion of a language, that seems to be vigorous and thriving.

Ooh, I can’t believe I was such a windbag! Decided to make a blogpost of it…the evolution of a language is a continuous process, and we tend to lose sight of that, and think that the language as we speak it now is the “correct” version, and want to keep it “pure”…but a language is a living, growing, changing entity, and it won’t keep still, any more than a wide-awake baby, full of life, will.