September 23, 2008

Literally, The Best Language Book Ever, Urban Dictionary, The Half-blood Prince, Society's Elite, and everything else in between...

Summer has been here and done it, and all in a blink. Where were you? Me? Well, I was mostly trying to catch up with all the haze and craze that was summer—this sounds so familiar, I'm so sure that I've been here before, grumbling like this in July, when I first reported that The Half-blood Prince would soon come out of his closet in November. Then, Warner Brothers happened, if you know what I mean. Suddenly, the prince was prohibited from emerging, until next July, supposedly to prevent him from clashing with his rival's upcoming revelation on Broadway; if this does not smell like another marketing ploy I don't know what does. I have yet to fully come to terms with the WB’s surprising announcement, so I'll talk more about it later. Umbridge must be behind it, secretly running the huge enterprise with other bigwigs like Chaney...

Then a chance to do book reviews for Society's Elite came up, which was really lucky because I have always been fascinated by the ever-intriguing subjects of philosophy and language, and some of the writings on these topics that I've enjoyed are Moliere's The Misanthrope, Thomas Cathcart's and Daniel Klein's Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar, and George Carlin's Napalm and Silly Putty.

While the following books vary greatly in their perspectives on the current state of our language, both are equally amusing.

Got an opinion or two, or a peeve or three?
Well, Paul Yeager is certainly not without grumbles, as clearly expressed by the book title.
Literally, The Best Language Book Ever, Annoying Words and Abused Phrases You Should Never Use Again spells out society's blatant misuse of the English language—from grammatical blunders to redundancies, to jargons and wordiness, to trite phrases, as well as clumsy conversions of nouns into verbs, called "Verbification", of which I am absolutely guilty of, since I doggedly google, instead of properly research just about everything on the internet.
And you, meteorologists, are not exempt either; you are equally condemned for committing prepositional glut, as in "showers are moving on over into a region".
(Refer to pg. 10 in the book for your vernacular crime).

That we are just not a very articulate society and eloquence simply evades us is such a shameful thing. I sympathize with Mr. Yeager's frustration about the abysmal deterioration of our language, a national affair so grim that one might just prefer to stay home and have tea alone than to suffer a dismally bland conversation outside.
Blame it on the administration at large, including the workplace and schools. Blame it on Bush too, as with everything else, since he single-handedly runs the nation. These officials should know better by teaching us the precise use of nouns, like "mentor", "leverage", "task", "transition", "partner", and "retail" which are strictly nouns, just like a "parent", and must never be used as verbs; to parent a child or acquire parenting skills is clearly unacceptable. (Refer to Verbification, Ch.3)

However, while Mr. Yeager does not claim being "some great language dictator" and actually "[doubts] that you'll agree with [the book's entries]", he simply does not allow inarticulacy in his house, according to his Introduction on page XIII. There goes my chance for ever being invited to tea, or coffee, for my googling and a friend's gifting. Then again, the gathering for a satisfying conversation at his place might be awfully small, since most of us, if not all, are oftentimes guilty of flawed speech. In fact, Mr. Yeager's slip-up is so obvious on page VIII, with his use of the phrase "my personal favorite" instead of the more succinct my favorite, or a personal favorite, or even a favorite of mine, since the words my, personal, or mine denotes ownership.

Nevertheless, I appreciate having read this book. While a bit pedantic in some parts, it passionately reminds us to do our best to avoid inept language so that "we can better choose how we present ourselves" and "participate in, rather than glide through, our daily conversations".
In other words, we need to stop being flippant about our English and start taking it seriously.
In short, speak clear English, people!
It can get tricky though. Let's not forget that the world we live in evolves. So do we and our words. And since our perceptions and experiences dictate what we say, new words are created, existing words converted, and definitions adjusted. These modifications largely taking place inevitably affect our syntax, our expressions, and thus, our language. Change is inescapable. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here, where we can talk together, or have a dialogue or a discourse, or a discussion, or even a conversation; by the way, don’t these words essentially mean the same? Who invented them—these synonyms?
What about nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs? And what of articles, prepositions, and interjections? And gerunds? Are these not verbs just converted to nouns by adding the suffix, ing? Does that ring familiar? Isn’t it the same process as verbification, only inverted?
But are gerunds more acceptable, as in thinking, than a verbification like parenting, because it is all right to convert the verb, think, into a noun, but not okay to turn the noun, parent, into a verb out of whose convention? Who started this tradition? Who established what we all have come to accept? And just who uttered the first word? Was it the Anglos, the Saxons, the Cro-Magnons, or the Neanderthals? And what was it? Was it an emphatic, "Ah"?
Ah, history certainly proves how far we have come since the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Westerners, and the Asians, Islanders, Aborigines, and others.

Well, maybe language is not meant to be perfectly neat or easy, specifically English, much of which, by the way, is borrowed, or to put it more lightly, derived from other languages; hence, the inconsistent rules, such as its pronunciation—i.e. the present tense, read, the past tense, read, and the color red; basically, the past tense, read cannot be read, or pronounced, like red.

Nonetheless, society will continue its present discourse and continue to “party” until something else takes its place with a more polished version of the act of partaking in revelry or
"mild-mannered frivolity", as preferred by Professor McGonagall.

Lest we forget, language is sentient. And as our communication evolves with time, lingoes remain. We may as well keep an open mind that we learn to appreciate and adjust to this kind of change, or not. But keep an open mind anyway. It could be fun, like an ad lib.
I call it play-speak, as in googling and gifting, though I choose to give a present rather than gifting or presenting a gift.

Still, I commend Mr. Yeager for saying what he means, without squirming.
He strongly believes that you can learn to speak his language, suggests that you should speak it, and says that the choice is yours.
And to those who talk his talk, more brevity to you.

The book is boldly written and a sure read for the earnest student or any aficionado of the English language. Its sharp sarcasms and puns left me tickled and stunned.

And if you consider this review hogwash for its length and/or content, the point is clear: it doesn’t matter much who formed these combinations of sounds or syllables, called words, and who determines what is acceptable or not, unless you are doing a school project or engage with something of a very fussy nature, as long as we allow each other to express ourselves freely. We zip through life—with one hand on a cell phone and the other clutching a latte (thanks to Alanis Morissette's Hand In My Pocket for the concept)—and inadvertently affect or freak each other out, as it is. Speaking of "freaking" (pg. 52), too much of it can and do get anal, like anything else, though I can't deny that my mouth spews it every now and then.

Highlight: "Who'd've thunk it?" (pg. 58) is absolutely hilarious.
Finally, "it goes without saying"...this concludes this review.Who'd've thunk that I'd "literally" finish it…

Now, switch your attention to Aaron Peckham's Urban Dictionary: Fularious Street Slang Defined. What can I say, the title speaks for itself. Written to give people "a chance to explain how they use and change existing language to express their views of the world around them", this book is hilarious. It is urban speak, a rich collection of words and an amalgam of expressions, submitted by the culturally receptive, a modern society that is an antithesis to an otherwise austerely erudite culture.

From the abc's—such as "abso-frickinlutely", which is "a reinforced expression of absolutely"; "abacadaba", to zip through a fill-in-the-bubble-and-get-it-over-and-done-with-fast-because-it's-just-so-ridiculously-hard-that-even-trying-to-score-high-is-made-impossible-and-pointless-multiple-choice test; and "air-biscuit", fart, plain and simple, as in, How dare you give me air biscuit I clearly didn't ask for?; "backne", simply back acne, of course; "bollocks", which could mean anything from rubbish, lies, great, or the best possible, to an exclamation made when one bungles, or even testicles; and "cankles", which are tubular legs where the calves and the ankles are indistinguishable from each other—to the xyz's of life, as in, literally, "xyz", short for "examine your zipper", or to remind someone to zip up the fly in the briefest and most discreet way—in addition to Peckham's droll examples, the Urban Dictionary presents the language of today's society and its subcultures, including everyone else in between and outside—[from the rebellious teens…tweens and thirtysomethings…to the 'rents, teachers…and even avid students of the English Language all over the world].

As Aaron Peckham aptly put, "Everyone deserves the opportunity to understand and be understood." Now, "chillax" and learn the lingo in this totally "fularious" book. Then, pick up its "ridonkulous" sequel, The Ridonkulous Street Slang Defined, lest you forget that language is fast paced and get left behind.

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