😕 My Emoji Anxiety 😓

Yesterday (July 17) was World Emoji Day, and I felt a bit like Chicken Little. chickenemoji.png

The thought of emoji taking over human communication flashed across my mind, and I feared for the state of the written word. 😥

Are we falling back into the age of hieroglyphics? Will we lose the nuances only a written sentence can provide? Can emoji actually help communication cross language barriers or will cultural perspectives trip us up?👸👳💂

Just look at the emoji translation of the first line of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick:EmojiCallmeIshmaelI don’t get it.

Will I be forced to learn a new language? (Seriously, I’m finally getting English straightened out in my head!) 😖

To calm my fears, I did what I usually do: I looked on the Web to see what other people are thinking. Turns out, most “experts” believe that emoji will augment writing much like facial expressions and hand gestures augment speaking.🙆

As someone of Italian descent, I think I can live with that.🍕💁


P.S. I’m not fluent in emoji. If I’ve created something negative or off-color, it was unintentional. 😳


Does Culling Vocabulary ‘Dumb Down’ Future Writing?

In “Elegy for lost verbiage,” Economist Obituary Editor Ann Wroe  wrote a wonderful piece using words that are disappearing from the SAT verbal test in 2016. RIP vocabulary

The piece was sent to me recently by my friend (and clipping service) Barbara S. Rivette. The editor in both of us just can’t let items like this pass by.

Now, I’m not opposed to eliminating antediluvian words such as cleave, gourmand, pellucid, penurious, vituperate, and obstreperous. However, I think the College Board has gone a little too far.

Among the words headed for the garbage heap are garrulous, virtuoso, duress, licentious, dirge, bashful, quaint, negligent, and (appropriately) extraneous. I think these are words that can pinpoint meaning and give just the right seasoning to our writing. Other words on the chopping block that I think are vivid and useful are maelstrom, nadir, beguile, morass, tirade, and anachronistic.

With immediate access to online dictionaries, why are we eliminating these words from the vocabulary of our young people? Will we revert to monosyllabic synonyms to ensure students can pass their SATs with enough points to get into college? What then?

One of the best things about English is its lush, expansive vocabulary. It has a huge inventory that allows for beautiful verbal creations. Can you imagine poets 25 years from now not having diaphanous in their word arsenals?

By not expecting students to stretch their vocabularies, are we doing a disservice to future writers?

Did the AP Cave?

How much pressure does it take to officially change the way certain words are used?

AP Hurricane of termsThe Associated Press (AP) announced September 22 that it will discourage using the terms climate change skeptic and climate change deniers in favor of climate change doubters or, if space allows, those who reject mainstream climate science.

The reasons the AP gives for this change are fascinating (well, at least for us language mavens).

On one side, scientists object to the use of “skeptics” because they say a skeptic in science bases disbelief on solid evidence and facts which, they claim, climate doubters do not.

On the other side, climate doubters don’t like the use of the word “deniers” because they claim it is too closely associated with the negative implications of Holocaust deniers.

Let’s look at what Mirriam-Webster.com says about those terms:

Skeptic: a person who questions or doubts something (such as a claim or statement); a person who often questions or doubts things.

Denier: one who denies.

To deny:  to declare untrue; to refuse to admit or acknowledge; disavow.

The denotations of these words seem harmless enough. According to those definitions, the original terms skeptics and deniers are quite accurate.

But we all know that connotations are driven by political and societal attitudes.  The question is whether there was enough public outcry to warrant the change or if the groups protesting the use of skeptics and deniers are just very vocal minorities.

The AP obviously decided there was a large enough objection for the change (or clarification).  Did it make a maelstrom out of a breeze?

English is ever-evolving. That’s what makes it such a great language (and such a pain to deal with sometimes). The question in this case is whether it really needed to be modified.

Did the AP cave in to pressure from limited minorities? If it did, is that okay or should it have stood its ground on the original terminology?

What do you think?

Weekend Wrinkle: Expletives We Don’t Have to Delete

You just slammed your thumb in a drawer, and there are not-so-nice words pressing your lips, desperate to get out.

Unfortunately, there’s a small child standing there with large, innocent eyes and cute, untainted ears. What do you say?

NixonLuckily, there are a ton of G-rated alternatives: phooey, sugar, shoot, drat, and darn, to name a few.

Expletives don’t need to be profane or obscene. There are a lot out there that do the job without polluting the mind. Let’s list a few: heck, goodness, goodness gracious, geesh, freaking, for crying out loud, and holy cow.

There are some that are on the borderline. I was driving along with my grandson in the back seat one time, and I missed a turn. “Crap!” I shouted then quickly apologized for my bad language.

“That’s all right,” my grandson replied. “I’ve heard worse.”

There are some unusual ones. I knew a lady who would say good night or good grief. (I hadn’t heard good grief said outside a comic strip.)

My parents used to declare, “Yer Aunt Tillie’s!” leaving what it was that belonged to my fictional Aunt Tillie to the imagination.

I was talking to a student one evening and became frustrated with a failure of technology. “Geesum crowbars!” I said.

He actually laughed. I guess that’s a much better response than a stronger expletive might produce.

I Want My Dog’s Life

The phrase, “a dog’s life” brings to mind images of want, hard work, misery, or mistreatment. As I sit here, on Labor Day, writing this and looking at my dog, Mona, I realize that what I want right now is the life she has. cute mona

Our culture has changed the way it looks at dogs, especially in the United States, but the language hasn’t caught up.

Oh, Mona hasn’t always had it this easy. She was found running on the side of the road with her puppy. There is so much of her life before I adopted her I don’t know about, and I’m sure it wasn’t very pleasant. Maybe that is why she seems to really appreciate the life of ease she now leads.

Now she is well fed, comfortably housed, able explore the yard pretty much at will, hugged often, surrounded by toys, and able to perch herself on her favorite spot – the back of my couch. All she has to do in return is love me back (something she does superbly), behave, and put up with the cat (something she does with a lot more grace than I do).

All this is a far cry from the hard work and deprivation usually associated with a dog’s life. Mona may be more spoiled than some dogs. Then again, she’s nowhere near as spoiled as other dogs (notably those of some celebrities).

There are still a lot of dogs out there who work for a living. Regrettably, there are far too many dogs (and other animals) who are neglected and mistreated. But the new paradigm, especially if you believe pet food commercials, is that dogs are part of the family. They are to be taken care of, if not coddled.

Even on a day when I’m not “working,” I still have to catch up on house work and yard work. When Mona wants to play, I have to wash clothes, mow the lawn, dust, and get rid of the “stuff” that seems to pile up despite my best efforts.

Mona never worries about where her kibble comes from. She is convinced the kitchen cabinet miraculously and endlessly produces doggie treats. I’m the one who provides. I’m the one who works to make it all come to pass.

Don’t get me wrong; I accept all those responsibilities and, most of the time, I do it gladly. It’s just that, once in awhile, especially when my To Do list gets out of control, I look over at Mona, curled up and snoring, and envy her.

Then I think, “I wish I had my dog’s life.”