Friday, April 25, 2008

In Honor of...

I really should have posted this on Wednesday, April 23rd, but I didn’t quite finish it on time. That day was both Shakespeare’s birthday and “Administrative Professionals” Day, the latter used to be called Secretary’s Day. This combination of the old and the new struck me as ironic.

Okay, I do know that English is a “living language” unlike Latin, for instance, so words in our language are constantly changing. Not all of them, and not all at once, of course, but changes do occur. For a glimpse of how this happens over time, just check out these lines (insults, really) from Shakespeare—

• Ah, you whoreson loggerhead, you were born to do me shame
• Pernicious and indubitate beggar
• A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, uncapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy

The Bard’s plays were not written for high school anthologies, but for paying customers, so the language in them was typical of the time, and often the insults brought a smile to the faces in the audience. As we looked at sites which quote the Bard, we smiled at some of them too. Indeed, upon arriving at school on Wednesday, my son got out of the car, looked about him and quoted, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” I didn’t argue the point.

My teens have been talking about “speds” lately. My son had a close encounter with one last week, so both of them have discussed (not favorably) the practice of placing behavior disordered students in regular ed classrooms. From them, I learned that since I left the high school, it has become a violation of school policy to utter the term “special education” in association with a fellow student. I am not kidding. There are six teachers of special education at that school, but no special education students. Weird, huh?

I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it still strikes me as odd that the United States still has a Secretary of State, but the person who answers the phone at a local office is likely termed an “administrative professional.”

English is a changing language; however, and when “couch potato” makes the latest version of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, it is clear that some slang is destined to become standard usage. Other expressions are likely to frozen in time, so “whoreson” and “groovy” represent different eras of English. I wonder what words being coined today will make it, and which ones will be mere relics of the text-message age.

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