or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Giving Up

The English language has a luscious collection of words for us to employ when we have strong feelings against something: we can take umbrage at it, we can fly into a dudgeon, we can ladle contumely upon it. And unfortunately, I find I no longer have any use for these words when it comes to the misuse of the language itself, something that used to cause me to passionately excoriate the abuser.

I can even pinpoint the exact moment at which I lost my sense of fury at the stupid, pointless, and avoidable errors that our daily lives are rife with. Jim and I holidayed in the UK for a few weeks, and a fair portion of that was naturally spent in hotel rooms, or aboard trains travelling to those rooms, so I bought and read a lot of newspapers.*

British newspapers, it turns out, are no better than their North American counterparts at cleaning up typographical and grammatical errors. And this in the country that invented the goddamned language. I kept track of a few of the usual errors to write about in the usual way, but my heart wasn't it. And on the last day we were there, I had two newspapers with me in the hotel, and in one of them I read the phrase "reign in", and in the other I read the phrase "flaunt the law" (even though in another section of the paper the word "flout" was correctly used in a similar context), and it was then that I knew that I just didn't care any more. Let them be lazy, the writers and editors and publishers, the newspapers and books and magazines. Let them be cheap, trying to save money by firing all the copy-editors and the proofreaders and trusting mechanical spellcheckers, if they even bother to use those. Let them corrode and besmirch and contaminate and bastardize and wreck. I can't stop them, and complaining about it won't fix what they have wrought.

*The three big stories while we were there: politician David Laws quit the new government when it was discovered that he had been renting an apartment from his boyfriend on the taxpayers' dime; some cab driver in Cumbria went on a shooting rampage and killed like a dozen people; and the World Cup** is set to take place in South Africa in July. Did any of these stories make even the tiniest splash in North America? Because they're pretty much all you read about for a few weeks. Oh, and the British Petroleum oil disaster, of course, but only because it's a British company; since it was happening in North America, the story wasn't a huge presence in the media.

**The World Cup? Seriously. It's everywhere in the UK. They're completely fucking obsessed with soccer. What is the deal with that? They make American football fans look like a passel of shawl-draped tea-drinking nanas.


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