Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wuh Tey Pebla

By Keith Fisher

“She leaped up from the bench, fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

Does this sentence seem wrong somehow? Does the title of this blog make sense? I’ll talk about the title in a minute, but the sentence was written into my WIP and I brought it to critique group this week. The whole group found fault with it.

Heather said it was old language. “People don’t write that way anymore.”
Tristi said it sounded biblical, and unless I’m writing scriptures I should think about changing it. I must admit, the scriptures are probably where I got the phrase, “fell on his neck”. I wrote the phrase to avoid repetitious words, but I also, thought it sounded clever.

This isn’t the first time my group found a problem with my old speech patterns. I usually cover, though, by saying I’m and old man, what do you expect. It makes me realize I use phrases and figures of speech that just aren’t used anymore. Some of my dialogue comes from the time period I grew up in, but there are ways of talking that are getting discarded in academia.

I recently attended a writer’s workshop and listened to Annette Lyon talk about grammar. Besides being the author of There, Their, They’re-A No Tears Guide to Grammar, she’s a self admitted word nerd. Words and proper use, is a hobby for her.

In her class, she answered some of the most pressing questions such as me/I, also Em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens. When Lay/lie came up, I was reminded of the LDStorymakers Conference when a man said some of the old conventions are being dropped in the publishing industry.

So, in this day of quick emails, and text messaging, I wonder if technology is causing us to lose our ability to communicate properly. It’s true. We have lost the art of letter writing. When I read simple letters written in the nineteenth century, subjects of which would be sent in emails today, it’s fascinating to read the language. Much better than books I read, the letters are almost poetic.

There was an episode in the original Star Trek series that emphasizes my point. The Enterprise crew encounters a world where the inhabitants speak simple English but nobody, except the chief, can read. At one point he speaks the sacred words from an ancient parchment. He starts by reading “wuh tey pebla” or something like that. Well, of course Captain Kirk recognizes it and begins to quote, We The People. The society had suffered atomic warfare and lost their language over many centuries.

I know it’s important to communicate with my readers. So, in my speech and writing, I’m endeavoring to keep up, but I still let old speech patterns, and sixties language slip into my writing, but I wonder about the rising generation. My daughter adds colorful messages to her sentences that I didn’t understand at first. Things Like BTW, OMG, TMI, and FYI. You may recognize these as short ways of text messaging, but I don’t text. Like the lost art of letter writing, how long will it take for us to eliminate words? Will our children pick up a copy of A Tale of Two Cities, for example and not be able to read it?

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.


Taffy said...

Great post!

L.T. Elliot said...

Dude, I won't LET my kids forget how to read. Yes, if I have to chain them to the wall, they'll learn to appreciate the written word, dang it!
That concept is one of the most terrifying things to me. Language is something essential and the written word is like its lifeblood. I truly hope that we, as a society, don't ever abandon in it favor of easiness.
(Not to be contrary but I rather like "fell on his neck". But then again, I'm old fashioned like that. ;) )

Karlene said...

I think your sentence is fine--but I was expecting her to BITE him. You know, like vampire bites. When I read "Kiss" I was a little disappointed. :)

Amy said...

This isn't the first thing I have read about "losing our language" so to speak. Every time this comes up I think of the various societies in the Book of Mormon and how much their languages changed without a guide, like the scriptures.
I am not that old (yet) but when I was in high school I remember reading Shakespeare and being the only one in my class to make any sense of it. I attributed this to my familiarity with the scriptures.
I am always glad to learn that I am not the only one who still values full sentences and complete words!

Weston Elliott said...

If you've ever tried to read Chaucer - we're already there! His language is so archaic that it makes Shakespear look like he's texting!

Languages change, so does communication. Give the rising generations credit for intelligence - even though they may not be using it right now... *grin!*