Friday, July 8, 2016

This Post Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With South African Economic Policy

It is, instead, a post about language vaguely inspired by this completely random post made years ago on a blog I don't read and never even heard of until I fcuked up an important document and indignantly googled for the proper way to make a sacrifice to the great Tpyos.

The linked post contains a quote from this post elsewhere, the gist of which is thusly:

Because really, what is language for? When you distill it right down to its essence, it’s all about the teleportation of ideas and imaginings, right? Think about how strange this process is: I see something in my mind, or I have a thought, and by emitting a strange series of sounds (or by drawing a string of symbols), I can implant into your brain what was previously in mine. Bizarro. And yet we do it every day and take it completely for granted.

If language is meant to communicate, why do we get in an uproar when it does its primary job, but with slight imperfections? In most cases, the intent of an error-filled sentence is clear. Heck, you can leave all the vowels out of this entire blog post and most people would still be able to read it. The Idea-Teleporter that we call “language” can be missing quite a few bolts and springs and still do its job.

And yet, many people expect perfection out of a tool that does not require it. It’s like wanting a car that not only delivers us to our destination, but emits no road noise, has plenty of cup holders, and will not break down. Ever. It can’t simply do what it was meant to do, it has to do it without error or a scratch. I can’t think of many things that are held to this standard, but the written word seems to be one of them.

The blogger in my original link made some vague comments in response, but didn't really say any of the things I thought of.

So I will write a response of my own. To a four-year-old post. On a blog I don't read. And then post it on a blog no one reads. It's called being internet famous.

Anyway, it's entirely true that language is a tool for communication. It evolves with use, and prescriptivists who obsess over rules they make up are completely failing to grasp the purpose of language in the first place. That said, just because language doesn't have top-down rules imposed by an authority doesn't mean it doesn't have rules.

It's true that language doesn't have to be perfect to be understood. You're udnersanding off these sentence bes'nt effected bye it's pore grammars, speling + tpyos. Hll, vn ths sntnc s t lst smwht cmprhnsbl nd t hs n vwls. However, while you may be able to understand those flawed sentences, it takes more work to do so. Essentially, the ideas teleporter carries a cost in the form of work— either the writer must do the work of making the passage comprehensible or the reader must do the work of (mentally) correcting its errors.

Most people aren't consciously aware of why they fly into a frothing rage over poor grammar and spelling. The usual comments about it reflecting poorly on the writer's education sounds like a rationalisation (and full of racist and classist assumptions at that). However, I think the reason why poor writing bugs so many of us is specifically because the writer is making us do the work to understand it— subconsciously, we are screaming: "You want to use the idea teleporter to teleport your ideas into my head AND REVERSE THE CHARGES??!" Even if it's not the product of laziness, we're viscerally annoyed— I know I get viscerally annoyed by it in much the same way I get annoyed by prescriptivists trying to impose silly rules. They're asking me to spend more cognitive power on language processing and they cannot offer a legitimate reason.

And this is now four posts in a row. That's something.

Vital stats:

Blog: Apparently
Date: Today
Current Mood: Prolific
Sleep Status: Yes
Word of the Day: Specific
Postage: 90p
Spoonage: 2000
Cat: Her name is Tabitha I think she's a witch
Tag: You're it
Gag: Rhyming stats
Fag?: I don't smoke
Job: I gotta stop you there. I'm pretty sure jorb is a four letters word.

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