Our language is ever evolving – and we need to accept that


Merry Christmas!

As I write this, Christmas for you is either today, or yesterday or tomorrow. For me, Christmas is still more than a week away.

That is the world of deadlines in journalism. I have had to get used to a weekly deadline as my entire career before coming to the Ogle County Life was all about daily deadlines.

This is much more relaxed, believe me.

But this makes me think about our realities. I am writing to you today from the recent past, and thinking about that is very strange. My present is your past.

My head is spinning a little.

Our realities are based on what we see around us, sure. But they are also based on what we have experienced in life. How did our parents raise us? Were we popular or picked on? Are we religious or not religious? Have we experienced the horror of soggy buffet seafood?

Every little think from our past makes us who we are today. Right now. I hope the truth is that something that happens to you today, no matter how small, can change who you will be tomorrow.

Now I am not talking about major changes. Major changes usually come through major life events. But small, subtle things can change the way we perceive the world around us. A lot of those little things can add up to some very distinct changes.

For myself, one thing that I see changing me in subtle ways is language. As an English major (no jokes!), I love language enough to have studied it. Language is a living, breathing and constantly changing thing.

That is certainly true of my language, English. It is constantly changing and evolving – for better or for worse. That evolution has certainly had an effect on me.

For example, how many of you use emojis when you text? I certainly do, and they have quickly become a part of our language. Teens can hold entire conversations with nothing but emojis.

For the uninitiated, emojis are representations of emotions or objects used to display a reaction to something. For example, a smiley face lets people know your mood. A plane shows that you are traveling. And throwing up the devil horns (raising your index finger and pinkie while holding down your other two fingers with your thumb) shows that you are ready to rock.

I use that one a lot.

As a language guy, I have grown to look at this texting and communication shorthand as an emerging language of its own. It is odd to think that in a world with lightning fast communications, we are actually communicating face to face with our actual words less than ever. Now it is symbols in place of words.

But that might be a good thing. Each generation pushes language and culture to different places. As older people, we can just sit back and judge younger people harshly, or we can embrace what is new and see what it can mean for us.

I will be 55 years old in 2018, but I am not ready to simply sit back and whine about how much better things used to be. I will let these new forms of communication and a new way of using our language to communicate inform how I, too, communicate. That is a great way for me to not feel like society is simply rolling over me.

Embrace the changes. Let them change you, even if it is in subtle ways. Sure, there are some things I don’t like (can we stop saying people and organizations are “woke?”), but I am excited to see where our language goes. Change is nothing to fear – it is how civilizations grow and thrive.