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Love Language: A Salutary Tale

A LACK OF LOVE OF LANGUAGE MUST BE THE ROOT CAUSE, I surmise, of its continuing degradation. What else can be so destabilising a factor as to result in the puerile whimsical puns of journalists and a street proliferation of ‘kwik’ contractions with all their implications of speed, of being ‘bite-sized’, of being dumbed-down for the hard of understanding? Those who are being taught are let down by some who teach, but they in turn are at the mercy of a societal urge towards the simple.

Think of a black hole: in some suggestions the spiral of the funnel leads to a simple, dense singularity. Certainly, in UK society, the trend towards this analogous point has been taking place – in language – for at least a generation, possibly more. It is more complex an issue than to simply refer to language as just reflecting the nature of language ‘as it is’ (the descriptive, rather than the prescriptive argument). It simply does not excuse the funnelling of language use towards the simplistic.

Those who are in the privileged position of being able to directly and quickly effect culture transition should be made acutely aware of their culpability. Defences such as ‘art reflecting society’ are not assembled with absolute integrity. ‘Art’, in this sense, encapsulates the output of TV, film, advertising, newspapers, the internet, magazines and, of course, books. Language absolutely must be loved.

It has always struck me that early education, in the UK at least, is fundamentally flawed. A ‘back to basics’ approach is often espoused by right-wing proponents of educational reform; yet, the ‘back to basics’ foundation is known as ‘The Three R’s’: that is, reading, writing and arithmetic. Has nobody else ever become irritated by the lack of urgency in addressing the irony? Perhaps the notion is not deemed important enough. Frivolity is, after all, a notable quality: anathema to the serious business of survival on this planet; we should not take ourselves so seriously. The dangerous implication though is that we then do not take anything seriously.

Language defines us. We, as a species, have opposable thumbs and words. If we cannot take what separates us from our primate cousins seriously, we risk joining them. Yes, the future of our species is at stake here. It really is of phylogenetic importance that we understand the slide of our linguistic demise.

Without a love of language, with a continuation of the ‘kwik-kulture’ (and it pains me even to write this in this way), the simple singularity of the black hole draws ever closer. ‘Art’, being all its potential cultural forms, must start to take responsibility: all of us who use words must be included in this statement. As a society, we must look at the basics and know that the details matter. If we ignore such fundamentals, if we continue to show such flagrant disregard for language, we will no longer be the greatest of the apes.

– Rafael Shareef

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