23 June 2011

Homophonic

Dear fellow Bloggers ... and posters, and tweeters, and anyone else who writes stuff:

The English language is full of homophones. Which, in many cases, are also heterographs. This has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual orientation or Ancient Egyptian history, and everything to do with how you describe your activities. To wit:

I, too, rode my road bike, on the road, to two stores.

Now, I can forgive uneven use of the serial comma, or the odd splice or two, and I even get away with mix-and-matching grammar conventions myself now and then. But when I do it, it's for effect -- I know the rules, and it's my little way of getting my due for years of systematic programming. What's critical, though, is that when you do it not on purpose, you either change the meaning of what you're writing, or you put a sentence together that makes absolutely no sense. I realize not everyone is a trained writer, but it pains me when even college edumacated folks write about their rode (road) ride, or how they like such-and-such a bike to (too).

The English language is a pain in the ass, but one of its beautiful qualities is that it assimilates. It's a living, breathing organism, and the English we know today will be different in some respects in 100 years. Certain conventions, though, are there for a reason, and that reason is clarity -- I'm hopeful that the shorthand/shortcuts we've become accustomed to thanks to Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, etc., does not lead to a complete degradation of a system that can be so precise in its conveyance of meaning.*

In the meantime, I'm going to go right about that their caret I need to eat.


* This is a fun one for me. Or rather, not so fun. As with verbal communications, it's up to the sender to ensure that a written message is understood by the recipient. By all accounts, Abraham Lincoln was a master at this, and is why we continue to study his speeches to this day. I, on the other hand, sometimes find myself embroiled in debates as to what I "meant" when I write -- the popular appeal and access granted by the interwebs make this a constant, no matter the subject. It's interesting to me to discover what meaning an audience will read into a statement -- I think because of my background, I tend to think in terms of "this is what the words say, therefore this is their meaning;" quite often, that seems to have led to offense where none was intended. Regardless, I always try to find the right (not write!) words for the job.

1 comment:

theintospective said...

Well written! I'm sure I overstep my grammatical boundaries often.