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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Winningest Year in The English Language

The English language is a moving target. Just as soon as you think you have your first language down pat, you find that it’s changed. I, for example, still use the word “groovy” as if it had been coined last week.

This isn’t as cool as it sounds.

Wait. Cool? That was just uncool.


What can I say? I happen to think that “groovy” is a perfectly cromulent word.

And therein lies the give and take nature of the American version of the English language.

On the one hand, you have the creativity, the playfulness. On the other hand, you have a cheap, self-referencing manipulation of how things are perceived, ie., “instant classic” or “a virtually unanimous decision.”


My very first post bemoaned the use of the song “Let the Sunshine In” to sell a car.

I’m still complaining about the music, believe me, but my mind keeps returning to the scene of the earlier crime.

The car mentioned in the above-named ad offered both “Precision Steerology” and “Cabinocity”.

“Precision Steerology” and “Cabinocity”, you say?! Well, hell, son! Sign me up! I mean I know my current car’s got Cabinousness – and that its got Frontseattitude – but maybe it isn’t about that anymore, huh? Maybe I need to upgrade my Cabinocity?

What do you think?

And Mazdanomics. You know – the economics tied to, um, Mazda. Sure! Why not? Create your own course of study and tell us all about it. Use it to sell me a car.

The American language is a slippery and clich├ęd slope, mixed with Ad Man Speak and a raw egg as a binder; and it’s also delicious with BBQ sauce and cold beer.

But is it accurate?

Is it such everywhere? Where are you, anyway? Are the English hacking at the English language the way the Americans are? Are the French spoofing themselves silly? Are the Indian and the Irish and the Australian and the Belgian messing about with their native languages?


Comedy Goddess said...

As we would say in CT, if you happen to be under the age of 20, It's all just so way random.
Take a look at the Urban dictionary sometime. Just for a laugh.

Braja said...

I think the category of "The Last Beer" possibly sums this up. How's that cranberry vodka mix going, by the way....

Susan said...

It's the new American strategery to keep up your confusification.

Blue Blaze Irregular #1 said...

My hat is still of to Diddy, who said he used Proactive to “moisturize my situation” and “preserve my sexy.” See, Diddy didn't need new words. He was perfectly capable of mangling the language with the tools on hand.

Pearl said...

Hi, CG.
Wow. I really like that -- and so much of what one is aware of under the age of 20 is just all so way random to begin with...

Hey, Braja!
You know, a vodka/cranberry juice mix is a lovely thing and apparently good for the urinary tract!

Hi, Susan.
Well said!

Hi, Blue Blazer.
Yikes. I almost forgot about that guy... "Moisture my situation". Sheesh. You know, this is just the kind of topic that can keep me fully fury-fied for hours...


Ann's Rants said...

I invented my own ebonics slang...DZANG! (Like Dang, only grittier!) Can we incorporate that into the american english lexicon?

Pearl said...


Fo shizzle!


Brother Tobias said...

The English aren't just hacking, they're textecimating it.

But I'm still trying to wrap my mind around you only having blogged since June. June! June 2008! An old hand already, with pensenviously tadictive blogonometry! It's just not fair.

Anonymous said...

I think your point is that Americans are excellent confabulators. We make up words to suit our needs, or because we're idiots...not much difference there. My favorite made up word is famboozled. Getting famboozled is getting tricked by your own flesh and blood...dirty rats! :)

EskimoBob said...

Pearl -

As the United States of America is the world's experiment of democracy, so is our language the great experiment of communication. Where else could we get the sweet smell of tasting the fruits of the melting pot? Chinese, African's, African-Americans, Irish, Irish-Americans, Native Americans/Indians (the real deal), Indians (from Indiana or India), I could go on and on. I love the wordsmith - and has inspired a game.

Kavi said...

Ahh !! Thats a post i like ! About English language and and it uses or rather evolutionary abuses !

Like discarded snake skin that lies by a trail, lies my original book on idioms and phrases.

And just an hour back, i read a note from somebody i know..titled ' a genital reminder ' ! I just suppose that it is his gentle way of saying what an ass i am to not reply to him in the first place. ( No puns intended ) !

We have an entirely new category of langauge called Hinglish. And that is Hindi + English ! Now...try that !

Pearl said...

Brother Tobias, you are so clever. :-) And yes, I didn't even hit on the textation of it all. A l8r post, perhaps...

Hey, Sweet Cheeks.
A nation of BSers!

Hey, EskimoBob!
That is true. We've got words in the language that came from all over the world. Hey -- do Eskimos/Esquimeaux/Inuit people consider themselves "related", native people wise, to the lower 48 Natives? Just wondering...

Hey, Kavi!
:-) I spent most of my childhood waiting for mispellings of "public". :-)
The truly exhausting part of my own native tongue (English) is how many people have no more than a rudimentary knowledge of the words in their own language or say things like "it was pitch red" without understanding that "pitch" is black or that no one "runs around like a banshee", you know what I mean?


Barrie said...

What? Groovy isn't cool? What? What? I obviously need a more up-to-date dictionary! Fun post!

Daisy said...

Don't worry - the English are doing it too. That's why the English language is so rich! The French are struggling to hold onto the integrity of their language, and ban the use of such Americanisms as "Le Big Mac" and "Le Weekend" but it's still happening. Sorry got to go now, as the French would say I'm "speed". Le speed, that is.

Pearl said...

Hey, Barrie, as far as I'm concerned, "groovy" is the bee's knees.

Hi, Daisy.
Le speed? Tu es le speed??? Attend -- vous etes le speed?

Ack. My French sucks. Wait -- when thinks suck in French, do they "suck"?


SweetPeaSurry said...

I still use a 'form' of the word 'groovy' ... only it's shortened as I simply don't have the time or the inclination to complete the full word.

Therefor, when someone tells me something I find especially 'cool' I simply say ... 'Groove'


June Saville said...

Hi Pearl
I think that you Americans and mobile texting are the biggest threats to the English language as she is spuk in Oz.

Films from the USA have made steady inroads into everyday Australian speech for many years.
And spelling among the young has had it since mobiles arrived.

Through time I have noticed many Australianisms come and go as well. I remember my Dad saying 'strewth' a lot and he wouldn't have used it if he'd realised he was blaspheming. It was just a common way of avoiding the stronger swear words for him and many others in those days.

Having said all of that, Aussies still have a very definite version of the English language peppered with colloquialisms. And we're proud of it!

I became more aware of that than ever when other bloggers, particularly Americans, commented that they had a bit of problem translating some of my fictional stories!

I hasten to add it doesn't seem to be too much of difficulty as they're all still reading them!
June in Oz

Kevin Musgrove said...

When I last visited friends in the States I took a Lankyshire/English dictionary with me so that they'd have a fighting chance whenever I lapsed into the local patois of my workplace (or at least the clean stuff; the rest is universal). They were OK with "afore," "playing a blinder" and "mard," picking them up from the context but "powfagged" had them puzzled, and quite rightly.

ICKY said...

This post was adequate.
It was adequatulous.....
full of adequacity.


Diane said...

I still say groovy. I don't care if it's not groovy. I do like some made-up words... my daughter started using 'ginormous' when she was about 4... it worked. When she was about 5, she coined the term 'bluster' in place of 'fart'. I know it's not made up, but I thought it was a mighty creative use of language, especially for a tyke :). I had a neighbor who used to say she was so 'flustrated.' But she wasn't a wordsmith... she was just stupid. So I don't think that counts ;).

The Wife O Riley said...

I am guilty of using existing (but not really commonly used) words inappropriately.

My sister and I got my mother calling any kind of dirt or anything you get on yourself "Schmeg", until we told her what it means. Now she won't trust either of us.

Lee said...

While you're on cars and english, the one that gets to me is "Free Air", meaning that the car comes with air-conditioning. Air?

Steve said...

So words like "Bodacious" and "gnarly" are no longer "hip"? Far out...

Ganesh said...

Brilliant post, Pearl.

I believe this America's way of racing ahead of the rest of the English speaking world so that they can claim they are the best in all sphere's.

English already is a convoluted language without the Americans contributing to more confusion.

Protege said...

All language are experiencing a change;in Danish they are about to publish a new dictionary with new words, actually English words that are modified to sound Danish. Initially they came from the computer and internet world (such as: webshopping, website), but even some American slang has sneaked in (such as: cool,o.k).
Thank you so much for stopping by my place; you will have to enlighten me one day about that mixed heritage of yours.;)