Everything is soooooo subjective. Well, every word anyway… We are in exponential times and the evolution in language is no exception. Confucius once explained this evolution in language when he asked us to take our definition of a king, and compare it to what a king signified 500 hundred years beforehand. Buddha is also quoted as saying “The only thing constant is change” and when we look, we can see these changes everywhere.
It may seem like a ‘no-brainer’, but what is a file? Do you think that what it means for you today has the same connotations as “a file” 40 year ago? What about a network 20 years ago? A social network 10 years ago?
I know what you’re thinking: this is starting to look like a fashion article – but fashion seems to be the one of the rare things we freely accept as being in constant evolution, constant redefinition… In reality, you can observe, and embrace, the fashionable aspect of language too. If you have kids, the chances are you’ll also have heard the evolution of what ‘cool’ really means!
Grammar too, blending with some academic belief systems, is also evolving and can therefore only claim to be “descriptive*” rather than “prescriptive**”. Seeing grammar as having fluidity along with its ‘medicinal facet’ indeed facilitates such other artistic endeavours as song-writing, litititerature, poetry and the like. If William Shakespeare, James Joyce and Eminem had just one thing in common, it would certainly be the elasticity in their ‘Use of English’.
Other academic traditions propose that the grammar we use today is the framework that needs to be maintained ‘as is‘ for coherent communication. Indeed, there is a tendency to see divergences from the recorded ‘structural rules’, as being grammatically incorrect. The tendency concerning vocabulary seems selective, but is also, in retrospect, always playing catch-up with the spoken reality of language.
One thing that can be said is that new words are arriving into our daily vocabulary at an astonishing rate. How? It’s easy: just invent a new service, product or concept. Hoover and Kleenex quickly became household names, Xerox got it in the offices, but how many Twitteresque names can you count in your vocabulary nowadays? If we can remove our conservatory judgment of something not (yet) being in ‘the dictionary’, surely we can embrace the evolution in language more easily and encourage an artistic opening in language learning and development.
*descriptive = describing what exists
**prescriptive = giving directions or rules to adhere to.