Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Thoughts about language

David Russell's post from a week ago about the absurdity of a Blogger's Code of Ethics got me thinking about a writer's choice of language. Maybe it is because I graduated with a degree in English (which I don't mention very often on Wikipedia because any authority this certificate might give me would be undercut by my bad spelling), but I am very conscious about other people's use of language, and what it reveals about that person. So I'd like to make a few observations:
  1. At the moment, I'm troubled by the tendency of my local media to use the dated slang phrase "rip off" instead of the simpler "rob". This usage suggests that the writer or speaker is insufficiently educated -- an impression I assume the local print and television reporters don't want to convey.
  2. Those "naughty words" people worry about (if I remember George Carlin's best-known comedy skit correctly, there are seven of them) likewise suggest that the user has a lack of education. There is a certain grace and humor when a person can allude to one of these words without actually using it; however, there is a time and a place for them. When any of them is used in an aggressive manner, it will always lead to offense and an aggressive response. In short, if you don't know why the statement "this is a clusterfuck" might not be offensive but "you are fucking stupid" is more so without the word "fuck", then you should avoid using that word entirely.
  3. It is never a bad idea to begin a blog entry attacking someone or something with the words "this is a rant"; those words warn the reader that vicious language will follow. If the post melts down into an ungrammatical string of words full of profanity, the reader was warned; if the writer makes her or his point without doing that, the reader will feel a minimum of respect towards the writer for having avoided that conclusion.


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