Words at Play

In the wonderful wordy world of Twitter, I have discovered wit and wisdom as well as utter tripe; philosophical musings and mundane mutterings; verbal zeniths and linguistic nadirs.  I arrived on this astonishing ethereal plane only last October, armed with a mighty prejudice against it, but told that it was essential to the contemporary writer’s existence.  I still don’t know whether this latter is true, but I have, contrary to my biased expectations, had a fun time of it!  I was certainly delighted to receive the above compliment about my idiomatic use of language from ‘The Grumbling Gargoyle’ (@LynnGerrard), who, btw, does a well bad tweet.

Fun time of it ?  That’s a bit colloquial, Christina!  Are you letting your standards slip?  That’s the trouble with Twitter: it’s full of acronyms and slang.  It’s like television, appealing to the lowest common denominator and debasing your every utterance…’  Oh, dear: the voice of a high school mistress, prim and proper and insisting on perfect phrasing and enunciation.

One of the really interesting (to me, at least) ironic things about having received a ‘formal’ education in grammar is the fact that it was a straitjacket that for many years constrained my own writing, even if it ensured that my expression was ‘correct’.   Over time, however, I let my creative hair down and played… and played.   I broke rules and loved being a linguistic iconoclast; the results were so much more interesting and original.  However, I do remain firmly of the belief that this works only if the rules to be broken are understood and the ungrammatical is deliberate.

An English teacher I know was bewailing the fact that her pupils in their conversation almost universally use street slang, such as ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’ and ‘evil’ and ‘bad’, all degrees of approbation; I’m not sure why anyone, least of all English teachers, should mind this, as pupils are consciously employing and enjoying irony in their daily interactions. What’s wrong with that?  Revelling in opposites seems like fun and kids like fun and learn from it; they are playing.  Give me a wicked (not ‘wickedly’!) ironic conversation rather than a formal Govean lesson on what irony is, any day.   I expect that most teachers are still doing their best (Rock on!) to provide a strong grammatical foundation and I can understand why they might be frustrated by the prevalence of, say, ‘could of ’ in pupils’ formal writing, as it reveals lack of understanding of the spoken corruption of ’ve, but I hope that they are also broad-minded enough to enjoy the verbal devilment of children’s experimentation with words.

Thank you, Twitter, for the best of your frivolity.  U iz well cool.