Other Matters: Language, Ya Know?

The Rifftides Department Of Language Reform (DOLR) has been neglecting its duties. Its members claim that their failure to stop the misuse of “absolutely” and “no problem” (see this archives post) discouraged them. At a staff meeting on the subject, the DOLRers moaned that they despair of succeeding where Fowler, Strunk, White, Bernstein, Ciardi and other titans of proper English usage have failed. They pointed out that people still say, “ya know” every few seconds; still say and write, “they” when they should use, “he” or “she;” millions still bloat their sentences with “on a daily basis” and “on a national basis,” wasting words when they could streamline with, “daily” and “nationally.”
“Never give up,” I told them. “It’s God’s — or Webster’s — work.”
“Maybe we’re being too fussy, too pedantic,” they said. “Maybe the language is just taking its evolutionary course, and what sounds wrong today will be right tomorrow.”
“Shut up and watch this,” I explained.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

To learn more about the poet Taylor Mali, go here. Thanks to Bobby Shew for calling this delightful wig bubble to our attention.

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  1. John Berry says

    With your recent toot on usage, I was consulting the Viking Book of Aphorisms, edited by W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger and it opened to the section on language.
    “Every individual or national degeneration is immediately revealed by a directly proportional degradation in language.” –Maistre
    But Maistre, if I remember correctly, was a French arch-conservative. Since my lapses in usage are many and frequent, I prefer the next entry.
    “My language is the universal whore whom I have to make into a virgin.” — Kraus