14 March 2014

Warsh

I often think about the ways languages change.

Over time standards move.

The Guardian spent some time running down the ways English evolves.

The one that stands out to me is Epenthesis. This is when a consonant appears where there isn't one. The examples given are 'thunder' and 'empty'. These words used to be 'thuner' and 'emty'. The example of a word that this is in the process of happening to is 'hamster'. Most people insert a 'p' in there.

This brings to mind the word 'wash'. In central Pennsylvania you will hear it pronounced as 'warsh'.

A lot of people get really caught up being bothered by this.

Say the word 'balm' out loud. If you pronounce the 'l' you are a part of this shifting language. That 'l' was left out. Until very recently.

I can't. Language is beautiful because it isn't a pure thing. We change, borrow, and steal to make it what it is. And I'm happy to see it living and breathing and becoming something new.

Think about people 100 years from now not understanding our spelling and syntax. It's a trippy thought, but take a look at syntax and language from the late 1800s sometime. It will explode your view of how quickly language shifts.

I've recently begun teaching a class on contemporary North American plays. We were reading Jose Rivera's Marisol. We began by talking about the early 90s. The kids in the class are all int heir early 20s so they were babies in the 90s.

Babies.

We talked about the weirdness of that time. The L.A. riots, the Tailhook scandal, the first World Trade Center bombing, abortion clinic bombings, the mere fact that Nirvana became #1 and a week earlier Michael Jackson was...

There was a sense that culture was in upheaval.

It made me realize that culture shifts quickly the same way language does. That what matters in 1992 will be strange and hard to explain in 2014.

That time and place are impermanent.

))))mind expands((((