What’s not to like? Our evolving language

We dragonflies are busy tech-editing  engineering reports at the moment. We often come across words that have been made up, but are completely entrenched in engineering-speak. 

Then there are those made-up or misused words that make us smile – like incentivizing something, or disabling as in ‘disabling the operator from opening it’ (which sounds a lot like a safety moment to me!).

So where do we draw the line when it comes to inventing words?

Think about YouTube, Facebook, and other social networking tools. These have evolved from nouns into verbs, as in:

  • why don’t I youtube it
  • let’s google her
  • I’ll skype you
  • you can facebook me

Then there are phrases like ‘make it a priority’ that has become prioritize, or ‘taking action’ that, with a prefix slipped in, has become proactive and means anticipating and taking charge of expected situations.

Of course, there are those who take the linguistic high ground, and say ‘it’s just not cricket’. But where did language come from?

If we’d stuck hard and fast to the past, we’d still be grunting on about the latest antelope kill, or waxing lyrical in the flowery prose of our English ancestors.

Language evolves. For example, new words and acronyms are constantly being added to the Oxford English Dictionary — like this year’s selection, which includes hashtag, unfriend, carbon offsetting, TTYL (talk to you later) and LBD (little black dress), among others. Meanwhile, old words take on new meaning, like tweet – or cougar.

So where do we draw the line in creating language? When the words defeat their purpose – communication. 

If you don’t want to be understood, speak ‘in fine print’ – that is, laced with a good dose of jargon and deliberately designed to obscure meaning.

Language, after all, is about being understood. Using the language your audience is familiar with will create connections and understanding.

All I can say is… what’s not to like? TTYL.

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2 thoughts on “What’s not to like? Our evolving language

  1. Pingback: Dropping the Oxford comma « …hanging out with dragonflies

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