Don’t Believe A Word: A Look At Language And Power (A Book Review)

Personally, I’m always suspicious of linguists (I’m looking at you, Steven Pinker) who trumpet their aversion to so-called ‘language snobs’ or more specifically, the prescriptivists because I have a strong gut feeling that it represents more of their political stance (i.e. Liberal) than actual scientific research, albeit they would be the first ones to shove their scientific ‘superiority’ down everyone’s throats and threaten to alienate as an outcast anyone who dares breathe out an objection to their groupthink.

Besides, I have a theory that for all their pizazz, what these linguists really want is to pander to our lazy, self-entitled generation so as to make them malleable to certain leftist and atheistic weltanschauung (I will write about the explanation for this on another post), I mean, isn’t that what college or university is for? I’m not saying that the prescriptivists are entirely correct, I do believe that language obviously evolves, as evidenced from the changes that English (to cite just one language) went through, but to think that internet slang is the epitome of language evolution rather than a trendy gobbledygook that I’m certain will eventually fade away into the annals of 21st century curiosities is downright stupid and dangerous. It teaches kids to be irresponsible about the language they use, which will ineluctably result in failure of communication and therefore the death of a healthy discourse between mankind. This is probably what they want in the first place, for come to think of it, if anything goes in language then the same could be said of life, no rules, and no respect for authority, a total annihilation of morals. If a person writes and speaks like somebody who’s only got half a brain cell, then how can he effectively communicate his ideas to the world? Again, I think language comes in many forms and as the article briefly touched upon, as long as the communicators have context as to what they’re talking about, then it does not matter whichever verbal calisthenics or even gibberish they make use of, BUT, I also think that language and grammar should be grounded on a solid foundation so as to leave no room for confusion and miscommunication. In other words, there is a reason for the existence of rules.

To conclude, my thesis is that we should be wary of the prevalent bastardization of language, lest it reflect the same careless disregard with which we handle the other aspects of our lives. When that happens, we become more susceptible to brainwashing, and if there’s one thing about propaganda I know, is that the propagandist must make people feel good about themselves before he plants the seeds of his ideology so as to make the people more receptive. If people today are constantly applauded for breaking the rules of language, they will come to associate the feeling of being lauded with rebellion and who knows what other rules they shall break? Suddenly I remember the saying that goes, “they first ask for a finger, and before you know it they’re demanding the whole arm” (translated from Filipino).

Therefore be careful of what you say (or write) and how you say (or write) it because as Heidegger puts it, language is the house of being, therefore our use (and misuse) of language gives us a clear picture of how we as a generation fare in the grand scheme of things.

“For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” -Matthew 12:34

Perhaps this downward spiral could get even worse, or perhaps I’m just a Luddite and we are actually at the acme of a linguistic revolution/evolution, which if true, is the worst.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how language develops in the coming years. Will English “as she is spoke” survive further bastardizations, or will there come a time when it shall become totally incomprehensible so as to have someone say, “it’s all Greek to me?” This happened with Old English, and will most likely happen again, but still it doesn’t erode the fact that language, at the disposal of today’s youth, is easily recognizable by its fixation on trifles (memes) as well as its haughty refusal to accomodate viewpoints that are different from what political correctness dictates.

There’s really no circumventing it: let’s call a spade a spade while we still can before this linguistic ‘evolution’ kills off everything sane and sacred.



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Aiko Lactaotao

Aiko Lactaotao

Writer whose heart is in the avant-garde, in dire need of therapy for Logolepsy, while being a lifelong hesher living the br00tal lyfe in her parent’s basement.