This weekend I happened to be out on Facebook. A friend of mine had a fun thread going, regarding the way English seems to sliding in a new direction. I find this interesting in same the way a cat finds a snake intriguing.
I want to play with it, but it may bite me.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, English is the ever-disintegrating language. The very roots of English encourage this continual evolution.
Think about it–a bunch of smart guys in Victorian England applied the rules of a dead language, Latin, to an evolving language with completely different roots, Frisian, added a bunch of mish-mash words and usages invented by William Shakespeare, and called it “Grammar.”
We had a short discussion about words that either signify lazy speech habits or a shift in the language and came up with this short list, that is only the tip of the pox-ridden iceberg:
Supposably…oh wait, did you mean supposedly?
Liberry…no sir you must go to the library for those books–the liberry can only give you hives.
Feberry...I hope you mean it will happen in February, because Feberry will never come.
Honestness...In all honesty I am not sure what to make of that one.
But my particular favorite is Prolly, which my granddaughters seem to think means Probably, but in all honestness, doesn’t.
It’s not a new problem. Jonathan Swift, writer and dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, complained to Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, in 1712: “Our Language is extremely imperfect. Its daily Improvements are by no means in proportion to its daily Corruptions; and the Pretenders to polish and refine it, have chiefly multiplied Abuses and Absurdities.” He went so far as to say, “In many Instances, it offends against every Part of Grammar.”
Well, that is prolly a little harsh.
English is like water–it shifts, it flows, it steals what it wants from every other language it comes across. That is what makes it so fun to play with. And also is what makes it so difficult to work with.