Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Many of you may have heard the "news"--Google is now defining the word "literally" as it is improperly used in the show "Parks & Recreation." The Rob Lowe character over-uses the word in a manner which truly should mean "figuratively," and it is written this way for comedic effect, but it has been picked up by enough users to change the definition, at least so far as Google is concerned.

I majored in Speech Language Pathology (BS, 1998, Brigham Young University) and studied the pragmatic approach to language usage as part of one class. One of the phenomenon noted during my time there was the schwa-ing of the English language--the concept that all vowels ultimately will be pronounced with a generic "uh" sound (say the word "the" as "thuh", not "thee" and you'll know what I mean). There was some controversy over it, but I felt that if the pronunciation was being used by the populace in day-to-day conversation, then there was no stopping it. It is what it is.

But this "literally" thing really chaps my pale, freckled hide.

It is one thing for a word's pronunciation to evolve, it is another thing to completely disregard the correct definition of a word. No one can look up to the noon sky on a clear, calm day and make the argument that the blue sky is actually green. One could not hold a key and call it a lock. An apple is not an orange.

The prevalence of misuse, pragmatic or not, can not justify a fundamental shift in a word's meaning. I don't care how many Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook posts misuse it, there must be a line drawn against the dumbing down of our culture.

Maybe I've just had enough vague posturing by a society that wants to hand out trophies to soccer players and first year employees for meritorious effort without having achieved anything of merit. Maybe I've had it with social change just for the sake of change. But to hear this news, literally the day after California signs into law the ability for any male or female student to participate, toilet, or shower in any gender specific team or facility of their choosing, (and how many 15 year old boys tried to get into the girl's locker room today using this very statute?) maybe I just feel like common sense is dying.

And what seemed to be a slow death now seems to be a rapid race into a concrete pillar. Figuratively.

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