A Language of a Love Unrequited

As you already know if you’ve read this blog for very long, I’m hopelessly in love with science fiction. More of an insatiable, passionate lust, really. Nothing makes my night after a long day of doing whatever like sitting down and streaming a well-written, imaginative science fiction adventure that takes me out of my daily grind, causes me to ponder life and spirituality, to question, to ask “what if?”

Now, there’s a lot of bad sci-fi out there, and a lot of good sci-fi, and sometimes you think you’re in for the latter only to painfully discover that its the former you’re viewing or reading, and that’s always a bummer. Whatever quality it is, though, really isn’t the question I want to ponder in this post, because its still sci-fi.

As opposed to “SyFy.”

For all of you English teachers, writers, and those basically literate who are reading this and just cringed, I’m afraid its true. This isn’t news, exactly, as the change occurred this summer for the Sci-Fi Channel’s…umm, I mean, SyFy’s, logo, but after being forced to stare at the offending thing in the lower right corner of the computer screen for the past 4 months as I enjoy the network’s offerings on Hulu, I’ve finally snapped and am unable to keep my mouth shut about it any longer. Apparently, creating artistically excellent, visually stunning, compelling, and well-written programming wasn’t enough to satisfy the network as they examined their marketing strategy. They felt that they had to make their logo illiterate in order to appeal to mass audiences more. After all, networks rely on viewers, and if the viewers are unable to spell and clueless about intelligent use of the English language, then said network must cater to cultural ineptness so that said viewers will continue to view. Long live the business model.

This leaves me so exasperated I don’t even know where to begin.

The crux of that with which I take issue is stupidity, I think. Not the stupidity of all viewers (see the above link’s reference to pissed off nerds), but the stupidity of our culture in general, and the furtherance of this stupidity by the attitude that it is easier (not to mention more financially lucrative) to cater to this stupidity than to do something about it. Why spend all that time and energy actually teaching people to read and write in correct English, after all, when we can spend that time marketing our products to the third grade spelling in which their minds already think so that we can make more money? I mean, money is more important, right?

I imagine that if our text-messaging, 160-character, SMS programmed generation of college (no, I didn’t say high school, I said college) students were able to see a problem here they’d say something to the effect of, “wtf??”

Then again, that’s part of the problem. We’ve become so used to shortening our language in the interest of expedient communication that abbreviations which were created so as to be able to tap out thoughts more quickly on a cell phone keypad have now become the grammatical status quo in emails, tweets, blog posts, and even (I imagine my professor friends would concur) research papers.

“Seriously?”, you ask. “UG2BK!!!”

Alas, no, my friends, this is the result of teaching our language as only a technical means of communication and of understanding “more important” concepts (advanced Calculus, for example), of reducing our language to nothing more than a means to an end, without loving the beauty of it, not to mention the beauty of any other language. Appreciation for poetry? No time for that…there’s industrialization to occur and money to be made! Enjoying a beautiful prose description of a sunset over a beach through the eyes of a compelling fictional character that could lead us to ponder something deep within our own psyches? Again, sorry, but there’s no time…we have to make sure our students achieve satisfactory scores on standardized tests so that we can regain our image in the eyes of the world, and produce more goods. To make more money. You know…the important things.

Except that, in doing so, we’ve reduced our educational system to even more of a laughing stock for the rest of the world, as we continue to destroy a language that has treated us well and furthered the development of our culture for centuries.

My prediction? We are 20 years away from the death of the English language. Gone. Relegated to memory of yesteryear. Or, perhaps more likely, altered and morphed into some sort of unrecognizable computer-speak with all of the succinctness and brevity of mass production, and barely a memory of a poetic and delicate language that once existed, erased as completely as Rome erased the histories of the nations it conquered. And when those speakers of the future who spend too much time working instead of thinking take a moment to wonder what it would be like if our language were to communicate something other than digitized facts, or to be crafted with a care and love for the language itself, everyone would chuckle.

“Wouldn’t that be funny?” they would ask.


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