Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Meanderings

If you're a fiction writer, chances are, you love language - or at least have a fleeting crush on it.  That doesn't necessarily mean playing with artistic flourishes of imagery, alliteration and metaphor, but it does mean understanding how to use the tools of language to paint a picture broader and wider than the words themselves.  Small choices of synonyms and word order can create a completely different mood/scene, even when the substance of what's being described is the same.

I admit, I enjoy the formal structure of language.  I'm a stickler for appropriate punctuation, for clarity, for rhythm and flow, and even simply for consistency.  I'm a self-titled Comma Queen, and the recent trend of minimalism in commas pleases me not at all.  They serve a purpose beyond clearing up confusion.  As far as I'm concerned, "alright" will never be all right, okay?  (Stop using the abbreviation in fiction, too.  Just.  Stop.)  "Bae" also drives me bonkers and I don't understand why it caught or where it came from.  The only explanation I can come up with is someone typoed the word "babe" and was too lazy to correct it.

I also text in complete, grammatically-correct sentences.  Yes, I am that person.

At the same time, I recognize that part of what distinguishes a living language is an ongoing negotiation of words and meaning.  I don't think anyone would argue that "Google" is now a verb.  (Some people might argue that "typoed," as above, is not an appropriate use.)  We regularly use words that had a very different meaning a few centuries ago ... and a whole grab-bag that were actually invented by Shakespeare and didn't exist before his time.

(There's a lot of debate in the fantasy field about the use of words that recognizably reference *our* world, such as "spartan," which refers to the Greek city-state and doesn't necessarily parse in a world that never had a Greece, much less a Sparta.  Even words that don't obviously signal our world to readers may feel anachronistic because they were invented later.  Or ... they may be much, much older than you'd think!  But that's a whole blogpost - there's another new word - in of itself.)

So for me, there's a tension and a negotiation between formalism and fluidity in language.  There are some things I've chosen to adopt; there are others that just feel like language-butchery to me, but I have to admit that some are purely subjective.  And maybe that's how the evolution occurs.  We're creating the changes ourselves every day by an unrecognized consensus.  Some of us "win" when our preferences are adapted or "lose" when something we detest becomes part of the formal lexicon.

And, of course, there are those quirks that are poor grammar, but are just fun.  I'm a big, irrational fan of the whole "because reasons" thing, where the string of connecting words is truncated to "because noun."  My favorite one these days is usually weather related:  it's sixty degrees today, because (this is) Ohio.  (True story.  Saturday.  I don't understand.)  Something about it feels both more arbitrary and more exasperated, which is perfect for an informal expression of "why is this happening?"

But please save the endangered Oxford comma.  Because otherwise, you get this:

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