So it’s official, ‘selfie’ was named Oxford English Dictionarys’s 2013 word of the year. For some reason, everybody’s up in arms about it. I’ve heard people being all, “well yeah, I use the word but like, that doesn’t mean I think it’s a real word.” For starters, that argument doesn’t even make sense. According to the OED — the integrity of which these people are supposedly protecting — the definition of a ‘word’ is a verbal expression. The fact that they uttered the word at all and know what it refers to makes it a ‘real word’.
Of course I know what they’re really trying to say is that the English language is great and that it should be preserved and protected from the deterioration onset by mass culture or some conservative BS like that. I can remember trying to argue with one of those guys way back, when Will Smith helped to get ‘jiggy’ into the OED. These people annoy the hell out of me. They bill themselves as some kind of divinely endowed keepers of language and spend their time whining pedantically over split infinitives and sending letters to talk show hosts correcting their English. You know them: The kind of people who shudder when you announce that you’ve Googled something, even though what you said perfectly communicated the action that you’d undertaken.
You know why these people annoy the shit out of me? It’s not because I don’t know the difference between ‘elicit’ and ‘illicit,’ it’s that in spending their time picketing the OED in defense of ‘correct’ language, they are ignoring what that is actually important to protect: its magic. Have you ever thought something was a bit of a hassle? If I told you that the word hassle was actually not a ‘real’ word but just a mixture of the words ‘tussle’ and ‘haggle’ would you stop using it? Would it just cease to have meaning? Nope.
In ‘loving’ language so much they are smothering its magic. Language is this amazing and wonderful thing. It has the capacity to make us feel things. To excite, amuse or surprise us, and part of that capacity is due to the fact that it can evolve. Let’s have a look at some Lewis Carroll, whose nonsense words have beautifully been able to convey a thought or an image, whose daring to tear down the grammar wall made it possible to describe a ‘chortle.’ And we all know how much we owe to Shakespeare for giving us many of the words that we use today such as ‘bedroom,’ or ‘addiction,’ or ‘advertising,’ etc. I could go on for about 1700 more words but you get the picture. Every sentence that we utter is composed of so many of the things these ‘keepers’ claim to abhor: made-up words contributed by Shakespeare, the Pope and Will Smith, onomatopoeia, jargon and portmanteaus.
These kings of dead metaphors, these crusty old fogies so irk me because while they think they are guarding language they are only trying to fence it in. We should be allowed to continue to meet new words that describe new situations and revise older ones that are no longer fresh. We should be able to continue to let words give us pleasure, surprise and excite us. I should be able to make a guesstimation of how much money I’m going to spend on booze this month and they should not be allowed to cut language’s balls off. Now, I’m not saying that the knowledge of ‘correct’ usage of grammar isn’t useful in certain situations. In a college essay or a job interview a certain kind of language is appropriate. But if you want to point out how fugly that hypothetical guy’s Hawaiian shirt is, then have at it (just not too loudly). My message to these people — especially those who are using American English, which would definitely not hold up to the standards which they are attempting to enforce — is to have some fun and chillax”.
Naomi Rea’s favorite song is “Lemme Smang it” by Yung Humma.