Acronyms Idioms And Slang The Evolution Of

Acronyms, Idioms, And Slang- The Evolution Of The English Lan Essay, Research Paper Acronyms, Idioms and Slang: the Evolution of the English Language.

Acronyms, Idioms, And Slang- The Evolution Of The English Lan Essay, Research Paper

Acronyms, Idioms and Slang: the Evolution of the English Language.

Although the English language is only 1500 years old, it has evolved

at an incredible rate: so much so, that, at first glance, the average person

in America today would find most Shakespearean literature confusing without

the aid of an Old-English dictionary or Cliff’s Notes. Yet Shakespear lived

just 300 years ago! Some are seeing this is a sign of the decline of the

English language, that people are becoming less and less literate. As R.

Walker writes in his essay “Why English Needs Protecting,” “the moral and

economic decline of Great Britain in the post-war era has been mirrored by

a decline in the English language and literature.” I, however, disagree. It

seems to me that the point of language is to communicate ? to express some

idea or exchange some form of information with someone else. In this sense,

the English language seems, not necessarily to be improving or decaying,

but optimizing ? becoming more efficient.

It has been both said and observed that the technological evolution

of a society tends to grow exponentially rather than linearly. The same can

also be said of the English language. English is evolving on two levels:

culturally and technologically. And both of these are unavoidable. Perhaps

the more noticeable of the two today is the technological evolution of

English. When the current scope of a given language is insufficient to

describe a new concept, invention, or property, then there becomes a

necessity to alter, combine, or create words to provide a needed definition.

For example, the field of Astro-Physics has provided the English language

with such new terms as pulsar, quasar, quark, black hole, photon, neutrino,

positron etc. Similarly, our society has recently be inundated with a

myriad of new terms from the field of Computer Science: motherboard, hard

drive, Internet, megabyte, CD, IDE, SCSI, TCP/IP, WWW, HTTP, DMA, GUI and

literally hundreds of others acronyms this particular field is notorious

for. While some of these terms, such as black hole and hard drive, are just

a combination of pre-existing words, many of them are new words altogether.

To me it seems clear that anything that serves to increase the academic

vocabulary of a society should be welcomed, although not all would agree.

For example, many have accused this trend of creating an acronym for

everything to be impersonal and confusing. And, while I agree that there is

really no need to abbreviate Kentucky Fried Chicken, it does become tiring

to have to constantly say Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or Transfer

Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) when they are both used so

frequently when dealing with computers on a network. Not only is it futile

for one to reject these inevitably new additions to our language, one would

do oneself well to actually learn them.

The cultural evolution of English is not as distinguishable, nor

seemingly as necessary, as the technological evolution of English, yet it

exists nonetheless. It is on this level that the English language has

primarily been accused of being in a state of decline, specifically by the

incorporation of “slang” into mainstream language. But Webster’s Dictionary

defines slang as:

1: language peculiar to a particular group: as a: ARGOT b:

JARGON 2: an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed

typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and

extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.

In this sense, much of what is commonly thought to be proper English can be

said to be slang. When the U.S. declared its independence from England, one

of the things scholars did was change the spelling of certain English words:

colour was changed to color, theatre to theater, etc. In addition, Americans

have, over time, given new names for certain things: what we call a trunk

(of a car), the English call a boot; what we call an apartment, the English

call a flat, etc. But because they have been in use for so long, they are

no longer considered to be slang words. R. Walker writes, “if slang and

jargon are fixed in the language, a process begun by their addition to the

dictionary, it helps to make them official.” It seems then, that a word is

slang only if it has not yet been accepted, that it is instead a candidate

whose initiation into the English language is determined by popular opinion

and time.

Slang in America today, while varying from region to region, has one

major theme in common ? it is short. And while history has shown that most

of it will die ? never making official “word” status ? to be replaced by new

slang words, some of it will stay. The word dis (short for disrespect), for

example, has become a popular word used by more than just Generation X.

What’s interesting, however, is that even the nature of current everyday

prose has begun to shorten: it is more direct and to the point. As an

example of older-style writing, Stephen Jay Gould, in his essay “Counters

and Cable Cars,” writes:

Consequently, in San Francisco this morning, I awoke before

sunrise in order to get my breakfast of Sears’s famous eighteen

pancakes (marvel not, they’re very small) before the morning

crush of more amenable hours rendered the restaurant uninhabitable

on Berra’s maxim.

This piece, while cleverly phrased, has a wordiness to it that would rarely

be found in the average present-day essay. This is not because writers of

today have smaller vocabularies than essayist of yesteryear (although they

might), but rather because there is a much simpler way of saying exactly

what Gould said. Ever since my very first English class, I have been told

that, as a writer, it is my job to get the reader’s attention, for I have

something I wish them to read. Furthermore, as a writer, it is also my job

to communicate clearly to my audience. In this respect, why choose one word

that is fairly uncommon (amenable) when other less ambiguous words could be

used. This is not to say that writers should cater to the lowest common

denominator ? the everyday reader should still be held responsible for

developing a reasonable vocabulary. Nevertheless, when a writer uses more

words than are necessary to convey accurately his/her message, he/she has

is doing their message an injustice. Thus, in the writing of today there

can generally be seen a more direct, seemingly less ambiguous tone and

direction (save for the uneducated). The days when it was looked upon

favorably to write in great length and use as many “big” words as were

possible is over. That style, albeit elegant, does not suffice in this

fast-paced society. Acronyms, idioms, and slang are constantly in the

making, providing new, quicker ways for people to convey ideas and exchange

information. English, in the coming century, will inevitably come to focus

more on the actual message than the package it is delivered in. It follows

then, that what be developed in the children of the future, more than

anything else, is their ability to think; to formulate a thought worthy of

sharing. For, no matter what shape the English language takes in coming

years, what will never change is the desire and need our of society to