I spend a great deal of time reading about words on the Internet. I’m not a grammar nerd – I have a fine arts degree and my understanding is that eliminates me from that category, forever. My outsider status does not interfere with my pleasure in the back-and-forth, however and if I can find the link to that famous discussion about whether honey comes from plastic bears, or vice versa, it will be my next post.
Meanwhile, Home for the heteronomous has a lovely bit about a post on The Awl that bemoans the use of “literally” and eventually “actually” and a few others that clutter the mother tongue despite the efforts of battalions of word nerd gardeners constantly weeding them out. I could tell them a few things about weeds and weeding and how pointless it is to pull up that sow thistle, no matter how annoying, but whatever. Tuesday Hatred’s author points out just how difficult it is to police the spoken word (or healthy garden) in this way:
Like and um are brought in for drubbings, as is awesome; these are words that can overtake a sentence or dilute a compliment. But they are also how very many of us talk, especially those of us who are not perfectly comfortable speaking. Those of us who are not exactly sure what we have to say, or whether we are entitled–empowered–to say it, say many of these words. And to those who feel that way, I would rather hear your thoughts, with all of your words, than silence you until you can get by using only those off the approved list.
Exactly! I love the spoken word and all its foibles. I love how the sounds and selections have changed since I first learned to talk, and I imagine myself happily nodding along with modifiers I barely understand in context when I’m 90. Every time someone opens their mouth without a filter I get to look right at their inner self and, unfair advantage or not, the beauty of that moment often stops me right in my tracks.
Tuesday Hatred mentions, just in passing, the near universal hatred of “Best!” as a closing:
. . . Never sign an email best because “you would never say best in person,” as if all words that couldn’t do double-duty in speech and writing were ballast to be thrown over the side of our magical linguistic hot-air balloon as we try to escape the muttering troglodytes who want to talk to us in small words.
Nope, sorry. I give advice for a living and if I signed off with anything else I’d never be on to the next problem. Somehow that one word sums up my good wishes and my inability to send more than my good wishes better than anything else. I’m not giving that up.
Go read the whole post – it sums up years of grammar angst in a highly satisfactory manner. But don’t worry too much about how we talk about it at the office tomorrow morning.