“Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.” (William Safire)

Halloween. It’s like the bestest ever. What’s not to like about candy… good, costumes…good, kids on a sugar high…well 2 outta 3. It’s like how much can we like something? Like I don’t know but it must be alot. Cause it’s always to die for around here.

You have no idea how hard it was to write that opening paragraph. It was like way hard. Which is harder than hard. Oh, crap I may not be able to stop now. How about I just start with a complete sentence? I feel like a dinosaur must have felt when each watering hole was just mud and it was miles to the next one. I long for sentence structure, punctuation, proper spelling and grammar. I would like it even more if someone actually made a point. Asking a lot aren’t I?

Words for me are my own personal chemistry set. I get to experiment with them and invent new compounds for my readers that would not exist otherwise. Anybody can tell a story but it takes skill to make it worthwhile. That’s why I study things like etymology, the study of where words came from and what they really mean. It’s fascinating stuff for those of us who practice the craft of wordsmithery. Take my first name for instance. Here’s the etymological explanation for this very common word, thanks to the great resource at Online Etymology Dictionary:

guy – “fellow,” 1847, originally Amer.Eng.; earlier (1836) “grotesquely or poorly dressed person,” originally (1806) “effigy of Guy Fawkes,” leader of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up British king and Parliament (Nov. 5, 1605), paraded through the streets by children on the anniversary of the conspiracy. The male proper name is from French, related to It. Guido, lit. “leader,” of Germanic origin.

When I read this historical reference I had mixed emotions. I was shocked to see it used to describe a poorly dressed person. I was aware of the significance of Guy Fawkes and his futile attempt to blow up Parliament but now that Jersey Shore has ruined the reputation of a Guido, I will have to console myself with my true Germanic origins as a leader. Who knew?

Words are important and how we spell them, use them and arrange them are equally important. I know it’s extremely old-fashioned and traditional to harp on this subject but if I don’t who will? Do we really want to see the English language reduced to a series of acronyms? I absolutely hate the word “like” as it is currently used. It has replaced the word “thinking” and the actual process of thought. That’s not an accomplishment, that’s a disaster. “LOL” is another cheap imitation of a real emotion and has pretty much stopped meaning anything. If you have to tell people you’re laughing out loud then it probably wasn’t very funny to begin with. We’re not making communication more effective, we’re just reducing it to its least common denominator. Guy used to mean leader or guide, now it means next to nothing and is a ubiquitous word for anybody. It took me years to appreciate my name as a child because I got teased so often. But being named after one of the greatest leaders of all time, my grandfather Guy R. McClintick, made me proud and gave me a standard to live up to. If I had been named something less unique I wouldn’t be the person I am today. A single word changed my whole life for the better.

I think we owe it to our ancestors to keep telling great stories with wonderful words that reveal valuable lessons. The only time I can accept a misspelled word is when it is used to dramatic effect as in the classic graffiti line, “Bad Spellers of the world Untie!” That is pure genius and whoever came up with that deserves a medal. Language is the thing that differentiates humans from all other creatures on earth and it is too important a resource to ever be used improperly. Let’s all resolve to do our best to preserve this scarce commodity once and for all. I promise to do my best, how about you?

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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5 Responses to “Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.” (William Safire)

  1. DAb says:

    LIKE, you’re just off that the charts with that Chemistry set of yours, Dude—REEEAAALLLYYY!

    Food for thought: Who was the “Chemist” that came up with the “formula”, really a theory at first, that you could take down a society by destroying its citizens’ motivation to think or communicate in any meaningful way and at the same time provide rewards to some element of that society, or another, to go forth and prove the theory?

    • grhgraph says:

      Wow, now that’s a brain teaser. It’s way too late in the day to get into something so esoteric but I will try again later.

      Just don’t ever ask me to write crap like that again, it was painful. I think I need a shower and a beer to clear my head.

      • DAb says:

        God doesn’t ask such tough tasks of those that he does not know can take it—faithfully handling “the inequities of life” with courage, even when no one is around to see!

  2. Suzanne says:

    John and I watched this B-rated movie. It was quite terrible but the idea was good. They just couldn’t follow through; too much sex. In saying that, I watched it all the way to the finish because the concept was good. It was based in the future where human beings have become stupefied by the state of permanent happiness they have been genetically altered to experience, This young kid offers relief via drugs that cause his customers the welcome phenomenon of pain. Then he receives this videotape of his dead father about a dangerous conspiracy that has created a dystopian world. Basic concept; dummy-down the people to where language and a moral compass no longer exist. If you can fight through the terrible acting and the raunchy sex scenes, you have yourself some food-for-though. Great article!

  3. Suzanne says:

    Silly Suz – name of the movie was Zenith

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