Letter: Recent column on lazy language employed several lazy cliches
Are millennials killing grammar?
In response to the recent piece in the Vail Daily, “Let us all resolve to speak better English in 2019, you know?” I would like to offer some thoughts regarding Mr. Thomas’ column.
Firstly, I find it ironic that Mr. Thomas chose to preface his predictable diatribe against my generation with a reference to “My Fair Lady,” in which a poor woman with a lower-class accent and vernacular is taken in by two upper-class men who attempt to mold her into a “respectable” woman. The irony here of course is that the work is being read more and more as a satire of class and gender politics rather than a feel-good comedy. And Professor Higgins, the character who begs the question regarding proper English, is not the hero Mr. Thomas may see him as.
But maybe Mr. Thomas should ask himself a question in turn: Why does he feel it is his duty to judge how people speak in informal settings?
Perhaps the answer lies in his well-exhausted scapegoat: millennials. Or, as Mr. Thomas charmingly refers to them: “ignorant, of a generation that can neither speak well, nor think rationally.”
Yawn. Talk about cliches. It’s not as though millennials were the first generation to navigate a rapidly-changing culture of communication, technology and increasingly complex sociopolitical networks only to come out the other end fluent in social media and using these digital platforms to lead a dozen important cultural movements, you know?
And by the way, the oldest millennials are 37 years old. Is that the generation you had in mind, Mr. Thomas? Perhaps you’re thinking of Generation Z, the even younger generation who is suing the federal government over climate change and leading the charge on common sense gun control.
And, as is the nature of cliches, we’ve all seen this one before. It’s a common hobby these days for older generations to accuse younger ones of frivolity and apathy when they eschew conventional language or behaviors, only to turn around to accuse them of arrogance when they become involved with social issues in ways older generations don’t understand or agree with.
At best, Mr. Thomas’ column is a boring exercise in semantics. At its worst, it is a classist and transparent attempt at discrediting the new generations’ voices. His particular command of the English language is no longer the most relevant, and therefore society must be crumbling.
Further, if he cares so deeply for the expression of language, maybe he could consider this: constraining that expression to arbitrary and outdated rules limits the potential of language to be poetic, to evolve with new concepts and emotions. There is no gold standard for the English language, it adapts to and for the times.
But of course, Mr. Thomas cannot believe his views are as unbiased and universal as he appears to. After all, it’s not “as if all Americans think alike.”
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