Random Linguistic Rambling

I find myself talking a strange pan-global semi-American proto-valley-girl argot. And I don't like it.

I ask for the check in restaurants. I want to get things; like the check, when I know I should have them. And I use get to mean understand; I get that. You get that? I say cool far too often. I say hey instead of hi. I occasionally say subway instead of tube. I ask people how they're doing, not how they are. I say like, like, far too often; I have friends who can verify that. And occasionally, I even find myself speaking with high-rise-terminals (where sentence endings go up instead of down, like a surprisingly good investment).

Aside: even the phrase "find myself" is a strange one. I mean, you don't really find yourself anywhere, do you? You pro-actively go there, make it happen. It has the implication of a passive life which happens to you whilst you're watching TV or surfing the web. In my first job - an ad agency, it was the eighties - one of the account managers, Alex, a proto-grunge guy with a serious party habit, would roll into work at ten thirty each morning, saying "I found myself in this woman's bed in Chelsea…" At that time I was a paler-shade of virginal and was shocked, not least by the frequency with which he, er, found himself in these situations.

Other language tics: sometimes I even say yay. Or bah. Or duh. And I definitely write them. Or other cartoon-enabled un-words that seem to express emotion to my more wired or comic-geek friends at least.

I wonder if in the future there won't be accents and local variations and dialects and patois; the world will be divided into the have-moderns and the have-nots. People with access to culture and information (the whole of the wired world) will speak a generic post-Hollywood vernacular, without the nuances of regionality that belie background, education and interests.

Online writing's taking it's toll too; there's a slightly subversive, slightly informal way that people write now. I think I was always like that, but I got update patches by osmosis from hanging out too much on metafilter and with developer-types. It's a tone that says; we of the open-source generation are all one. We respect each other, but in a let-me-forward-you-that joke way. And to get respected in our borderless world, a place without any genuine barriers to entry apart from net access, you have to speak our language.

Come the revolution, are we all going to speak an Esperanto-like, unmodified language that'll probably be called Diet-Coke-Big-Mac-AOL-speak? Lexipraxis will be a quirky, entertainment-value habit of former generations. The ability to weave words into new fabrics of meaning will be frowned upon. There'll be language validators; I'll be able to mail an MP3 of four random conversations to the W3C Speak 4.6 site and they'll send me back a code that I can attach to all electronic communication to verify that I speak blandly.

How great will that be? Then we'll all have to dress in a Gap-Person commeth kind of way and the world will be complete. Completely bereft of individuality, eccentricity, idiosyncrasy and the values I hold dear.

How did I get here again? 

8 August 2002

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