Saturday, February 21, 2015

Life Has Changed Without Me

By Keith N Fisher

This blog post will probably date me. It might sound like an old person wrote it. It’s just as well, I feel old. When did saying certain words and things become acceptable in our society?

Recently, on Facebook, a writer asked whether it was okay for her character to say a certain word. To be accurate, she asked how offensive the word is for her character to say. Her character is abrasive and she wanted to know if she was writing him right.

After reading the other comments, most of which, said the word was tame, I chimed in that it was not tame. I was quickly outnumbered in my opinion. Not that it matters, but many of those who disagreed with me, are writers in the LDS Market.

Yes, society is changing, and I’m not going to tell you what the word is, but unless we wanted to fight, when I was young, the word never came out of our mouths. The word, or combination of words, was almost taboo. It was a low class insult. Apparently it’s okay, now.

When did life change? I wonder what kinds of words and phrases will be acceptable in the future? Also, in the past few years I’ve noticed a big drop in correct word usage. It seems our language is going away. Will civility go next? Has it already passed?

In the recent LTUE symposium, I attended a panel called Common Grammatical Errors. The subject of the wrong word usage came up. The whole lie/lay/lye/laid thing resurfaced. I turned to my friend and told him about my current pet peeve.

More and more, especially in the news media, I hear people say may when they really mean might. If somebody may do something, it means they have permission. It doesn’t mean there is a possibility. Pay attention sometime, you might be surprised. (Notice I didn’t say may?) Then again I might be wrong and you may correct me if you want.

I’ve mentioned it before, but several years ago, an editor expressed her concerns to me. She felt society was losing the language. Writing styles were changing. And they were. Writing tends to reflect the changes in speech in our culture. Is that a good or bad thing? I’ll leave it for you to decide.

I remember an argument, not so many years ago. I took the position that writers need to write to their audience. If the reader has to consult a dictionary it takes them out of the story. My opponent claimed they had an obligation to educate. Big words were part of that. No matter what I said, my friend was immovable.

Recently, on a panel, I heard that same person take my side of the argument. I’m not going to name that person, because I believe everybody can change, but it proves my point about our language. Writers reflect life, and I still believe we should write to our audience. There is a line of stupidity, however, and we all cross that line. I just hope other, literary, writers will carry the torch. I hope they will keep our language pure, even if there is nobody around who understands.  

Good luck with your writing—See you next week.

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