*The Pointless Writer*
has a life you're completely uninterested in. But it's okay because I can write. No abbreviations. No shoddy grammar (though I'm not immune to mistakes). Just quality writing on sometimes completely pointless topics.
UnPoints of Note
1. I write when fancy takes. Sometimes, fancy takes many months of leave.
"I hate you." "You're spastic." "Don't be so retarded."
Part of ELL (English Language and Linguistics) encompasses the study of language variation. Today’s lecture isn’t quite what sparked the thoughts that led to what I’m about to write, but I find it an apt way to start. What is language variation? The name should speak for itself. Language can vary in a myriad of ways: pronunciation, spelling and definition are the main three. (May my ELL teachers not murder me if I’m wrong.)
I’m more interested in the definition aspect today, which is part of what we discussed during today’s lecture. Our lecture was on the standardization of language. To sum it up, while language change is inevitable, standard languages are needed for practical purposes, whether or not you believe any one variety is superior to all others. (For the non-ELL-takers, Standard English would be the ‘correct’ English while Singlish is a variety of English.) Of course, the top most purpose of a standard language would be for communication. Remember the Speak Good English Movement? Anyway, without a standard language, one word could mean five different things to five different people, defeating the purpose of language when miscommunication results.
This isn’t entirely relevant to my point, but there is a link. (Hope you can see it. xP) I’m particularly sensitive to what I view as the inappropriate use of certain words, to name a few: retard, hate and spastic. I find that today’s teenagers (my peers) tend to use these words lightly, which I find very insulting. Retardation is no laughing matter. And I’m sure those who do actually encounter the difficulties of being spastic don’t think it’s funny when their condition is thrown around as a light insult among those who cannot even understand what it means to be spastic. I certainly don’t appreciate being told “I hate you” just because my last lesson on Thursdays ends at 1.10pm, extraordinarily early. Never mind the fact that it’s “all in good fun”.
There’ll be those of who’ll think I’m being a spoilsport, perhaps, or overly sensitive, or maybe even reading too much into things. (Though I do have a reputation for over-thinking, among my friends.) Maybe you think I’m being annoyingly preachy. But I honestly think we shouldn’t be using words like that so lightly. I’m not saying I follow my own principles all the time. I got into the habit of calling my younger brother “spastic”, just last month, whenever he was being hyperactive… till my mother reprimanded me. In my annoyance at his hyperactivity, I decided to ignore my own moral standards in favour of what I perceived as a ‘stronger’ word. That’s something I’m not proud of. And I’m sure I’ve lightheartedly used the same phrase “I hate you” with my own peers a couple of times. But at the end of the day, I regretted my actions because I truly believe such words shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The only link from this to my ELL lecture is the new meanings that are being added to these words. I’m not against language change. I think it’s sometimes needed and other times interesting. But I don’t believe in lessening the meaning of, say, the word “hate”. Hate is such a strong word, one that few of us have a right to use. And if we keep using the word in jest, what word will be left to use in all seriousness?