One of my Christmas presents this year was the book, The Language Wars, by Henry Hitchings. Not surprisingly, I have already discovered some great insights which translate well to our profession.
Hitchings quotes American linguist William Dwight Whitney: “‘Every existing form of human speech is a body of arbitrary and conventional signs…handed down by tradition.’ Crucially, therefore, change is ‘the fundamental fact upon which rests the whole method of linguistic study.’”
Hitchings points out how “we may experience a kind of amnesia about what the words we employ used to mean and where they came from.” Sound familiar? See any relevancy here?
“Change happens” Hitchings proclaims, and “We are the agents of change…Needs alter, values shift, and opportunities vary.”
To say that some of our rules are arbitrary would be inaccurate and unfair; but many are due to convention, and perhaps “handed down by tradition.” Why not open our eyes to the possibility that some changes are in order?
As to the book, if you’re an avid reader, writer, or merely interested in language, you are sure to find it of interest. It was reviewed in the WSJ recently, and placed on my list of books I’d like to receive, and my wife was kind enough to include it with my other gifts. I think you’ll like it!