Why You Should “Lean In” to Changes to Our Language

English is a marvelously evolving language. It changes with the merging of cultures, the advent of trends, the whims of youth. Some things become “sticky”: words like “cool,” a slang term that morphed into being a permanent part of our vernacular. Some words and phrases, such as “cat’s pajamas,” are not sticky, at least not for more than a limited time, and are eventually abandoned due to their inability to gain favor with the mainstream crowd. And while purists may lament the introduction of memes that have worked their way into conversation like “on fleek,” or the disintegration of the language by nearly illiterate sentence composition and the flagrant breaking of most of our language’s many rules (some of which are frankly bizarre), some things needed to be adopted or abandoned, and below are my opinions on a few.

Good riddance to:

The word inflammable. You were a stupid and unnecessary word that probably resulted in a lot of people dying in a fire. Buh-bye. As for words like “decimate,” which means to reduce by 10%, popular use has added to/changed their definitions, sometimes for the better in that they’re able to be used more clearly and more often. Sticking to its original meaning, how often would anyone other than a mathematician or an architect use decimate?

To never starting a sentence with a conjunction. Well, we’re doing it now. And you can complain about it, but it ain’t going away. And I, for one, welcome it. (See?)

To always leading a gerund with a possessive. Those of you who are asking, “What’s a gerund?” are probably in the majority. A gerund is a weird form of verb that functions like a noun. For example, in “Imagine my wearing a dress that ugly!” the words “wearing a dress” are now acting as the noun, in that they’re the “thing” in the sentence. The rule has been to place the possessive form in front of the gerund, so the version I have above is correct, whereas “imagine me wearing a dress that ugly,” is wrong. But the latter version makes more sense to most people, so it’s time to let that outmoded rule die out, along with the Oxford comma and the misguided notion that there should be two spaces after a period. That’s a relic from the days of Ye Olde Typesetting that was abandoned by the literati in the early 20th century. It’s outdated and suggests that you learned to type on a manual typewriter.

Formality. The vernacular spelling of words like “kinda” and “gonna” are perfectly fine in casual discourse. Don’t put such things in your submission letter to Harvard, but when emailing your cousin, go to town.

Correct spelling in texts/emails/posts. Mobile phones have altered the landscape and certain words can be spelled any way the writer wishes, as long as they’re inferable by the receiver. So try to stop being annoyed by “ur” and “idk.” It’s all going to be alright. As opposed to all right, which is correct, but again, let’s not quibble over such silliness when there are other more pressing problems we need to address, such as:

The replacement of the word “gone” with “went,” as in “I’d went there several times.” Ugh. Stop doing that at once! But I know people won’t, because I heard a news anchor do it recently when he was forced to wing a comment. It was sad and horrible to my ears, but I had to hang my head and admit that all too soon, gone will gone…it will have went away. (Ewww!) I’ll continue to kick and scream, at least for now, but at some point I’ll stop trying to swim upstream in the battle to keep American English “correct,” as if there has ever been a time when it was.

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