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#032 Morphing Words

posted 21 May 2018, 02:29 by Aaron Brownlee   [ updated 21 May 2018, 02:30 ]
"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." - George Orwell

Sometimes the idea of different languages seems to be inconsistent. At some points people act as if the words we use to communicate are set in stone, and there's no way for anyone to change them. But then words like selfie and the phrase "squad goals" are official words in all major dictionaries, not because they make sense, but because people use them to communicate. It's the same story that led to the worldwide use of emojis. Phone companies in Japan had used them due to their larger character sets, and when Unicode got around to adding Japanese characters to the database, they had to add emoji too, as it was a officially recognised way to communicate with one another, and now emoji are understood globally. I think it's sometimes forgotten that every word exists because there was a need for it. There was no word for a strange egg laying creature walking around, so the word "Chicken" was created for it. 

But the part that I find interesting is the case of words like "dice", when mistakes become language. Originally, the singular of dice was die, so anyone saying they were throwing a dice was told they were wrong. But then something strange happened. People started using dice as the singular word more and more, until eventually, people stopped trying to correct the "mistake" and started just using it themselves, and after a few years, all major dictionaries accepted dice as both the singular and plural, making it no longer technically a mistake anymore. And this happens with contractions too. words like gonna and Imma are accepted by most dictionaries as official contractions, though mostly as informal or slang words. I think the point is, if enough people make a mistake, it no longer is recognised as one. I mean the definition of mistake is "an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong." but if nobody recognises it as wrong anymore, then nobody can claim it's a mistake. 

Speaking of mistaken words, I noticed that when I first typed nobody as noone, it's underlined as a spelling error. After looking it up, there seems to be a small amount of debate about whether noone can be used in place of no one (even no-one seems to be an acceptable spelling). Some people say that as nobody and nowhere as single words are correct, noone as one word should also be correct. Officially, no one as two words is the "correct" way to write it, as two vowels next to each other make it seem like it could be pronounced "noon". But like I've just mentioned, if lots of people are making the mistake, maybe it'll soon become an official spelling. So really, the entire job of a grammarian or linguist is flawed, since the rules they use to tell people if they're right or wrong are changing constantly. If they can't tell someone they're wrong about their grammar without knowing whether they'll be correct in a months time, what's the point in correcting them? I think as long as it's understood by the intended audience, it doesn't matter if it's not recognised officially by giant dictionary companies, since they don't seem to be that reliable. Anyway, Thought Over,

- Aaron