Language and an Extension

On My Writing

Technically, a bunch of pieces are due tomorrow to meet the second of the three challenges I set myself. Illness in the past couple of weeks means that isn’t going to happen, so I’m giving myself until the morning of the 7th of July to finish up. Ideally, I’d give myself a free weekend to write (which is what I lost to a nastly cold. Grumble, grumble). However, I’ve got to work the weekend support shift next weekend. I considered giving myself a longer extension, but I have major social events each weekend after that through to the end of June. So, that seems like a bad plan. Instead, I’m going to release slightly rougher work than I really want to.

Hopefully, you should see some pieces going up during the week. I’ve actually got about 6000 words written at the moment and just in desperate need of some editing. I guess we’ll see what happens

On Language in General

I’ve been learning some of the basics of linguistics of late and have discovered that I have been a wrong, bad person for the last 15 or 20 years. A prescriptivist approach to language – where you tell people they can’t do shit because that’s not how we used to do it – is bull-malarkey. Language is whatever people use and what is mutually understood defines a dialect. The fact that so many people do use literally as an intensifier means that it is an intensifier. That’s how language works. It’s the whole idea behind it. What makes things even worse is that the highly educated and the less educated often speak different dialects (some linguists seem to prefer the term sociolect, which I think is cool but don’t know enough about to use confidently). Which basically means that we’re bullying people for speaking a language that isn’t quite the same as ours. Shame on us.

Stephen Fry covers a similar topic in a much better way (and with a much more impressive use of language than I possess):

2 thoughts on “Language and an Extension

  1. If one wishes to communicate to an audience then one should pick the words that that audience understands (seem obvious). If someone wishes not to do that then 1) they don’t speak the common language, 2) they choose not to for a reason that with time may be understood and this is the message, 3) they are imperfect at communicating due to current environment when that original communicator needs to read the audience and adjust the delivery. Effective communication is an active two way process.


  2. A stranger from the land of Woot came to Master Foo as he was eating the morning meal with his students.

    “I hear y00 are very l33t,” he said. “Pl33z teach m3 all y00 know.”

    Master Foo’s students looked at each other, confused by the stranger’s barbarous language. Master Foo just smiled and replied: “You wish to learn the Way of Unix?”

    “I want to b3 a wizard hax0r,” the stranger replied, “and 0wn ever3one’s b0xen.”

    “I do not teach that Way,” replied Master Foo.

    The stranger grew agitated. “D00d, y00 r nothing but a p0ser,” he said. “If y00 n00 anything, y00 wud t33ch m3.”

    “There is a path,” said Master Foo, “that might bring you to wisdom.” The master scribbled an IP address on a piece of paper. “Cracking this box should pose you little difficulty, as its guardians are incompetent. Return and tell me what you find.”

    The stranger bowed and left. Master Foo finished his meal.

    Days passed, then months. The stranger was forgotten.

    Years later, the stranger from the land of Woot returned.

    “Damn you!” he said, “I cracked that box, and it was easy like you said. But I got busted by the FBI and thrown in jail.”

    “Good,” said Master Foo. “You are ready for the next lesson.” He scribbled an IP address on another piece of paper and handed it to the stranger.

    “Are you crazy?” the stranger yelled. “After what I’ve been through, I’m never going to break into a computer again!”

    Master Foo smiled. “Here,” he said, “is the beginning of wisdom.”

    On hearing this, the stranger was enlightened.

    Such is language.


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