Language has limitless potential for beauty and connection. Whether we are looking to be informed, entertained, or simply carry on a conversation, we are absorbing and sharing language all day, every day. Sometimes it can be exhausting, but without language, where would we be?
At Noteworthy Communications, we obviously put a lot of emphasis on the importance of communicating well. It is our passion, our career, and our service. We have made it our job to understand the conventions of the English language in order to best tell the stories of others. However, just as styles and methods of communicating change over time, so does language itself. Language is an evolution, and we are all active participants.
Know the Rules
Many of us learn in school the basic rules of grammar and spelling. As we are writing college admissions essays or cover letters for employment, or even a blog to be shared online, these rules are important to adhere to fairly strictly. By doing so, we are showing our understanding of the conventions of language and the widely accepted way of communicating in a professional environment.
Standard English certainly has its place, such as in formal business communications or legal contracts. To understand the foundations of language may be important, but what is arguably more important to understand is that, although there are rules, all language is just made up by people. While there is a logic behind it, what can be created by people can also be changed by people. Language is no exception. Words hold power and language should encourage a certain degree of creative flexibility.
Break the Rules
As the needs of the population change, so does language. New products, technology, experiences, and understandings demand new language to accommodate them if we are to communicate these concepts clearly to others. We see examples of this everywhere. By pushing together two different words, with different meanings, we create a new word that becomes a favorite weekend meal: brunch! By abbreviating a single word, we create two separate connotations: a gym where adults pay memberships to exercise, versus a gymnasium, where students gather to have assemblies in school. A straightforward sentence such as “I'm going to the gym before brunch” is something we would never think twice about, but is actually a simple example of our continuously evolving language.
When the right word does not exist, we make them up. Eventually, that word becomes a part of our widely accepted lexicon until we forget the word was ever not a part of typical conversation. The dictionary is not a rulebook, but rather a record book to show where we are in our current evolution. For example, the works of William Shakespeare are often viewed as confusing or attainable to modern audiences, but in his time, Shakespeare wrote for the masses, and he was not shy about turning the English language on its head to suit his own purposes. Using elbow as a verb, green-eyed to express jealousy, and the word swagger, are all terms whose origins can be traced back to Shakespeare himself and which we still use today, in addition to many others.
Create Better Rules
Our environments shape our language, but as we are exposed to different types of people, backgrounds, environments, and concepts, our use of language also expands and becomes more inclusive. We become more well-rounded, empathetic, and understanding people in how we think, speak, write, and interact. Although we may have been taught otherwise decades ago in school, using they as a singular pronoun is now second nature when the pronoun of a person is unknown (much more aesthetically pleasing than seeing he or she written over and over) or if a person prefers they as their pronoun. With the evolution of language, we create more room for growth.
Older generations have a habit of criticizing the trends of younger generations as silly, but each generation forges their own slang, and our elders were certainly no exception. They brought us groovy and far out, so can today's teenagers really be teased about using fire or lit for the same purpose? Change does not necessarily have to mean a loss in value, but just as with our style, our language is a reflection of the time, and no amount of nostalgia for our own generation's lexicon can put the brakes on the evolution of the English language.
As previously discussed in Chapter Six: Leave a Message, we must constantly be asking ourselves what message we are trying to impart on the world. Language is a key component in how we achieve that goal and share that message. Unlike the rigidity of mathematics or physics, language is fluid and always changing. In time, whatever new rules we create will also be broken and replaced with more appropriate language rules, and that's okay. Language is a human endeavor.
We create the language of our time and so will the generations that come after us. This is the cycle, and it will never end so long as there are people with a desire to communicate. At Noteworthy Communications, we are those people with a fascination for language and how it is used. With every project we undertake on behalf of our clients, the language we employ is finessed with their authentic brand and message at the forefront. By appreciating the continuous evolution of language, we can find the best way to share the stories of others.