The dynamic nature of lexicons

Impressive words have their uses but often times shorter, more commonly known words work better to get a point across; to that effect, the amount of characters in the title of this article probably scared off a quarter of the potential readers. Their loss.

Recently, but really throughout my life, I’ve encountered a type of complaint that seems especially useless: people upset at others for not using real words. What are real words? Some would say a real word is one that exists in a dictionary; I’m not one of them.

A sound becomes a word the instant it communicates a message. If you’re in the middle of the street and someone shrieks, just a scream nothing else, you move your ass; in that instant, that sound told you “get out of the way” and you listened. Recording the instance, or the particular sound, for future generations makes no difference. If the problem presented is communication, then whatever works, works. Look outside, find a trunk with branches, leaves and such- that’s a tree, right? That makes sense, that’s fine, but who the fuck made that call? You don’t know because it doesn’t matter; what does is the message.

One of the best books I ever found by accident (on a bookshelf in my middle-school), Frindle by Andrew Clements, is a children’s novel that realistically portrays the malleable nature of language. Basically, a bunch of kids mess around and end up changing the word for pen (I bet you can guess what to); it’s a genuine feel-good story, but a change in the protagonists suddenly makes the concept not okay.

Snoop Dogg adding ‘izzle’ onto the end of words was mentioned in one of my COLLEGE textbooks as -I’m paraphrasing here, but only a bit- ‘an attempt to make his music indecipherable to anyone who isn’t a black urban rapper.’ –The Practice of Public Relations. The author, while old, is being dramatic and unnecessarily rigid in his interpretation of language; if you don’t get it instantly, it should only take a second to realize ‘fo shizzle’ can’t mean anything other than ‘for sure’. Thinking is always the best response to unfamiliar words.

Shakespeare is credited with the creation of over 1700 words common to the modern English language. He introduced those to the public through his plays; Snoop izzle-izing words in his songs isn’t the same thing, but it isn’t that far off either. This sentence links to a site that tracks the amount of unique words rappers have used. It’s really cool to look at every now and then.

Language has always been dynamic; why fight the tide when you can swim in the ocean?

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