The Written Word – 11/27/08

Dear Reader ~

One evening, some weeks past, I was dining with a friend of mine at a local restaurant, and one of the themes of the conversation was modern cell phone technology. He was introducing his phone, the iPhone, by way of demonstration, and it was my job to be fascinated, awed and enthralled with both his demonstration and the accompanying device. – which, honestly, I was. Perhaps, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was enthralled, but simply amazed, I suppose. I was amazed at how far this whole “technology kick” has taken us off of what I would argue to be the beaten path. Why is it that the average American today has (something like) two televisions in his/her house (*average), can order a pizza on the Internet using his/her phone, but couldn’t survive a storm, fix a flat tyre, point to the direction of a rising sun or give correct change if the cash registrar (B:till*) were to break down? Seriously, why is that? People can locate a nearby restaurant and make reservations via their computer, but wouldn’t know what to do if their mode of transportation didn’t start. Yes, to a degree, the examples that I give are hyperbole (*pronounced Hi-PER-bow-lee. Please do not say HYPER-bowl.), but, on the whole contain a veritable argument.
Don’t get me wrong, technological advancements have produced some great results, but at what cost? I think it’s fair to say that, either consciously or subconsciously, we find that there is balance to existence – for every addition, there is a subtraction, every gain, a loss, every black, a white, every heavy, a light and so on. What, then, is taken away with every gain in technology? It may be said that the answer is a loss to marks of competence and degrees of culture. The most salient one, in my book, is the art of writing.
When I say the ‘art of writing,’ I mean every aspect of writing – penmanship, orthography, style and vocabulary. I listen to the conversations that I hear daily and I wonder how many thousands of words have fallen out of use in the past few decades. Why is it that only in social circles of the upper class do we hear higher level words. There are over 490,000 words in the English language, and over 40,000 technical words – the most words of any language in the world. Yet, daily, weekly, monthly and annually, there are many words, wonderful words, that are forgotten, unused and become listed in lexicons as archaic, and, before long, aren’t listed any longer.
When was the last time you witnessed sensuous (not sensual, let’s make sure we know what I mean and not start guessing) handwriting? Really. When was the last time you saw notable penmanship? In the 50s and 60s, my parents’ generation, not only was penmanship a requisite in school, but they were slapped with rulers if they didn’t produce letters that were pleasing to the eye. Now, with the advent of the computer, not only has penmanship become a literary myth, I dare say it won’t be long before we witness the generation of man that laughs at the idea of manually putting ink on paper with artifacts known as pens or pencils.
Am I really that far off? Think about it, how often are you checking a dictionary by your desk or at home to look up the spelling of words? Hasn’t it become more convenient to just let the SPELL CHECK icon at the top do all the work for you? That’s just a concern I have for English. Yet, it’s the whole world that is influenced by this ostensible “need” for technology. Need! Ha! Tell my grandfather, John Zapotocky, about a need to take a car to a car wash.

I would urge you, whenever possible, to write. When you write, write well. So, you feel like an elementary student for a few months. You are! That’s okay, everyone else is too. We’ve forgotten (never learned) this. Be diligent. Without our script, the cornerstone of our language vanishes. Without are language, what else do we have that actively (remains as an active part of us) identifies us? Pick up a pen. Write!


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