Like, Ya Know?

by James Scott Bell

Words matter.

I am not a grammar snob or the vocabulary sheriff, but I do care about language because that’s what I use to tell a story or make a point. A culture needs both compelling tales and right reason. That’s why It’s important to educate the young about words lest the whole edifice of our human interactivity rot from the bottom up.

When a society’s stratum of inarticulate goofs expands, the ability to cohere as a people necessarily contracts. Eventually you’ll end up with competing tribes who only understand their own particular mode of grunting.

Our current trend line is not a happy one. High school dropouts of the 1950’s were better able to communicate than most college grads today. In fact, read the Civil War letters of soldiers. Written by farm boys in their teens and twenties, they are positively Shakespearean compared to today’s glut of emails and tweets. Don’t u agree?

Soggy language begets soggy thought. When that happens, emotion replaces reason as the sinew of communication (just watch the screaming-head opinion smack downs on TV, or any randomly selected brain softener tagged, euphemistically, a “reality show.”)

Words matter.

Disinterested does not mean uninterested.

“Begs the question” does not mean “Invites the question.”

And “ya know” does not add a convincing note to what you’re trying to say.

I invite you to listen to slam poet Taylor Mali on this topic. Then talk amongst yourselves: Do words still matter? Can language be saved?