Friday, July 03, 2009

Colonial Language


by G.Parker

I have been fortunate at times during our blog's history, to post on days that have national significance. Some would probably argue that July 24th isn't a national holiday, but I think it affects them, whether they accept it or not.

Anyway -- the first holiday this month is national. The 4th of July is Saturday, and while Keith will have the honors, I still get to mention it.

Recently, my family and I have been taking a closer look at our country and it's its founders -- especially at their writing and how it is viewed today. One of the early writers of the revolution was Thomas Paine. He wrote several articles that ignited the people and helped spark the resolve to separate from England. In a talk on Sunday, one of the articles (The Crisis) was mentioned and quoted.

"These are the times that try men's souls."


In listening to the quoted material, I noticed how differently we talk now. Depending on whom you were to talk to today, this sentence could come across in many different ways.

Child - "I don't know what he's talking about. Do you?"
YA - "Hey, like, these times are trying, ya know?"
Late Teen - "It's getting harder and harder to pay off my credit card, dude."
Adult - "I'm worried about where this country is going."
Educated adult - "The conflict and dissolution between the parties is pulling at the very fabric of our country."

As writers, we try to make our writing something that isn't associated with a specific time period. In my critique group, they comment on particular phrases or common slang, and remind the writer that if they don't want the work to be classed as '80's' or '70's' or whichever era, they need to take out the slang words that were related purely to those times.

In some ways, it's sad that our language has lost some of its depth. Many of the words Thomas Paine used would be confusing to someone of our day. Here's another paragraph from his book The Crisis to illustrate what I mean:

"THOSE who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. The event of yesterday was one of those kind of alarms which is just sufficient to rouse us to duty, without being of consequence enough to depress our fortitude. It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same."

I admit, if I were reading that in a newspaper today, I'd skip it and move on. It would not be my chosen reading material, because the language is different from what I'm used to. But I still like the intelligence it displays. It's kind of the same reasoning some people use for slang or swear words. My mother-in-law likes to say that those who swear just can't think of better words to use.

I think our language has changed because we have gotten lazy. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's true. One of the common complaint my husband has had about cell phone texting, for instance, is that those who do it a lot loose some of their ability to use grammar and spelling correctly.

Thus -- again, our language is being affected by the changes in society. Amazing how many different things are changed or affected by how people act, speak and think. Including the books we read and the education we get.


For now, enjoy our nation’s birthday, and remember the freedoms we have as a result of an amazing and intelligent group of words on paper. Next week I'll explore another early writer -- Benjamin Franklin.

1 comment:

L.T. Elliot said...

I like "thick" language because I feel there is so much conveyed in a word, so much language and love in the words that expresses a wealth of feeling. I agree about the loss of grammar and I hate vocabulary seems to be a thing of the past.

But all that aside, I love that my country is a free one and that I'm entitled to feel that way while another person is allowed to say "Catcha later dude!"