Grammarians of the World, Unite!

Language is a dynamic expression of an organism.
It “can be defined as verbal, physical, biologically innate, and a basic form of communication.”
In short, it is how we live. If we didn’t communicate, we would probably cease to live.
Sure, we could live for a while. You can manage to bring down wild game without speaking or even coordinating with someone else.
But our society – our wold – cannot function without communication.
Of the brothers and sisters of language, we in the West are children of Potentate English – ruthless and domineering.
Yet this titan has a weakness: its speakers.
Particular emphasis on the Internet.
Almost complete emphasis on the Internet.
Actually, let’s just blame the Internet.

This is all your fault.

Internet and texting are the floodwaters that have begun to erode away the foundations of our already convoluted language.
Like the bursting of a dam, the increase of technology (coupled with the horrendously low reading capability of people in general) has produced something of epic proportions: the exile of grammar.
We live in an age where correction to language is seen as “nazi-ish” or “pointless.”
Pointless?
Grammar is pointless?

Grammar saves lives.
Doubt me? Think again.

Proof that commas do something.

We need to do away with the notion that grammar is “stupid” or “pointless.”
Difficulty does not mean we should shy away from trying; with regard to language, we should strive our best to communicate well.

Now, I don’t mean that you should completely reform your speaking/writing.
I have many bad practices that are tolerable at even the academic level.
What I’m talking about are basic rules that help everyone understand what you really mean.

Let’s go through some examples.

Your/You’re: Not hard. Not hard at all. “Your” is possessive. “Your grammar is worse than Justin Bieber’s music.”
“You’re” is a contraction, meaning two words have been combined via the almighty apostrophe. “You’re too lazy to use spell check.”

There/Their/They’re:
“There” is a child with many parents (at this stage of English). Commonly, it is used as a (bad) way to begin sentences. Traditionally, its function is locative, telling us where something (or someone is). “I think you dropped your brain over there.”
“Their” is a brother to “your,” meaning its possessive in usage, differing in person and number. “Their grammar was so bad that they were kicked out of school.”
“They’re” is a contraction. “They’re listening to dubstep. Yeah, I don’t understand it, either.”

Words like “truely” or “dyeing”:
What should be spelled as “truly” or “dying” often find themselves with an extra vowel. It’s typically one that was present prior to converting the word to an adverb/participle/whatever. In the case of “dyeing,” we have the problem of confusing two actual words.
You are not “dyeing” if you are drowning.
Consequently, you also are not “dying” your shirt blue. If you are, I’m turning you in for cilicide (“shirt killing”).

Duck/Duct Tape:
This is a simple mishearing that’s snowballed over time into a full blown brandname for what was once called “duct” tape.
Also, to be fair to our lazy speakers, “duct” (pronounced correctly) takes far, far more effort say than just a simple “-ck” sound. While we’re on the lazy train, we should let on the naïve people, too. Some people might not know what a “duct” is.
If this you, this isn’t a dig against you personally. I’m just highlighting the fact that languages do weird, funky things through time. Go, go humanistic dynamism!
I’ve never seen “Duck” tape, but I imagine there’s a use for it.

Why am I surprised?

Irregardless:
Negative form of “regardless.”
Yet “regardless” is already negating what was just written/spoken/posited. “Regardless of what you think, I’m far more more awesome than Justin Bieber.”
It does not make sense to add a negative prefix “i-” to make it more negative.
In fact, a double negative is a positive. That means “irregardless” is the opposite of “regardless.”

There are many, many more I could go through. But you’re bored. I can tell.
So, I’ll end it here. (But I’ll add some if I find particularly funny errors.)

Well, one last one.
Do not end a sentence with a preposition. Just don’t do it. Ever.

Ever.

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Linguistic Musing: Zachariah!

Haven’t had many linguistic musing posts lately, so I thought I’d post something about me. (Not egotistical at all.)

Learning Hebrew has (rightly) made me return to words I accepted as “true” in meaning to rediscover if my first sense was accurate.
One of these has been my own name.
My name – Zachary – is a modern Hebrew-to-English version of the name “Zachariah” (which appeared probably in the late 13th century) which then is a version of “Zechariah” (which preceded the Zach- form slightly). Yet all of these are still within English; we need to go back to the Hebrew to find the actual name.

זְכַרְיָה is the script for Zechariah.
It is more accurately transliterated as “Zakaryah.” (Which is a pretty cool spelling if you ask me.)

I bet his name is also “Zakaryah.”

What we have here are two words in Hebrew: “Zakar” and “Yah.”
“Zakar” is a fairly simple verb in Hebrew. In the Qal/Pa’al (simple, active action), it means “remember, to remember, bring to memory, surely remember” and so on for another 10 definitions.
“Yah” is actually a shortened term for היה (“Ha’yah,” the verb of being in Hebrew) and יהוה (Tetragrammtron – YHWH, “LORD” or “Adonai” [‘Lord’]). In a sense, it signifies God’s name/presence.
When combined, it does mean “God Remembers” as so many Christian Bookstores engrave on small signs.
But something that had never struck me before is that a shard of God’s name is in mine.

Part of God’s name has been given to me.
I am NOT ascribing divinity to myself.
But the fact that my name has part of God’s name within my own is significant.
It is significant because God, in some way, has called me.
God has placed part of his name onto my own.

I am Zakaryah, and God has remembered me.

Linguistic Musing: Parent vs. Guardian.

Think back. For some of you, way back.
Think back to when you were in elementary/primary school.
Can you recall the letters that went home with you?
What did the letter start with?

“Dear Parent/Guardian…”
For the longest time, I never thought much about it. For some children, they have biological parents – the very people who physically brought them into the world. For others, they had guardians: grandparents, uncles and aunts, foster parents, etc.
On the surface, these two terms seems quite different. And they are. Somewhat.

The term “guardian” is a noun (of course), but its root is “guard.”
“Guard” is an early 15th century word, taken from the Middle French (French that was spoken circa 1400-1600 BCE) noun garde, “guardian, warden, keeper; watching, keeping, custody.” And this word has its root in the Old French verb (~900-1400 BCE) garder, “to keep, maintain, perserve, protect.”

Now, THAT’S a guardian.

The term “parent” is less exciting, but I’ll cover it, anyway.
“Parent” is from Old French (11th century) parent, which is actually from Latin nominative parens, “father or mother, ancestor.” Also, the word parere (prepositional usage) means “bring forth, give birth to, produce.”
Fun facts: The term elder was the native word for “parent” until the 1500s. And even more interesting, the verb form of “parent” wasn’t actually attested to until the 1660s. The noun “parenting” wouldn’t surface until 1959! (“parentcraft” was the precursor to “parenting” [1930]).

So, why did I drag you through French and Latin? Because it’s remarkable how we add to the evolution of language.
The word “parent” means nothing more than producing a child whom you happen to mother or father.
The word “guardian” actually encompasses more of what we ascribe to the word “parent.”

For those of you who are parents, do you see yourself as a guardian?
You should. (Especially the custodial aspect.)
Parents need to become guardians of their children again.
“Guardian” need not have a legal, non-parental connotation.

Our world would benefit greatly if we all saw our children as people whom we have produced AND have the task of guarding, protecting, and keeping watch over.
Our families would be healthier.

 

Our children need protectors.
I am honored to be the guardian of Zoë Anastasia Poppen, and I will protect her with my life.