On the Internet, everyone looses.

by Charles Miller on April 8, 2010

Quoted verbatim from the World of Warcraft official forums:

If you think the balance of trees will be better than it has in the past 5 years then your diluted.

One side-effect of the rise of the Internet has been the birth of a post-literate generation.

In my un-networked youth, writing was something you did for teachers and families. You wrote school projects, stories and essays. You wrote postcards, thank-you notes for presents and the occasional paragraph at the end of a letter. When you did so you made as sure as you could that you got all the words right because an adult was watching, and would usually correct you if you got it wrong.

With the popularity of text-messaging, email, blogging, Internet message-boards, everyone has become a voracious correspondent all at once. The recipients of the messages are peers, not superiors. The feedback loop is broken and anyone who objects is a grammar nazi. When in doubt, it is far more efficient to transliterate what you would say out loud and hope the letters line up than it would be to check if it is correct or not.

Of course we rail against it and hope that by the time people enter serious study or the workforce they are able to write in a way that doesn't embarrass. On the other hand spelling, like pronunciation, has always undergone seismic shifts despite the efforts of purists and dictionary-worshippers to capture the language and encase it in amber.

In short, it might be time to end my almost two-decades-long battle against the confusion of ‘lose’ and ‘loose’.

There are all kinds of pedants around with more time to read and imitate Lynne Truss and John Humphrys than to write poems, love-letters, novels and stories it seems. They whip out their Sharpies and take away and add apostrophes from public signs, shake their heads at prepositions which end sentences and mutter at split infinitives and misspellings, but do they bubble and froth and slobber and cream with joy at language? Do they ever let the tripping of the tips of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to giddy euphoric bliss? Do they ever yoke impossible words together for the sound-sex of it? Do they use language to seduce, charm, excite, please, affirm and tickle those they talk to? Do they? I doubt it. They’re too farting busy sneering at a greengrocer’s less than perfect use of the apostrophe. Well sod them to Hades. They think they’re guardians of language. They’re no more guardians of language than the Kennel Club is the guardian of dogkind.Stephen Fry

Previously: Oops…

Next: Charles and the iPad