Dear users of the English language,
To coin a phrase often seen on the internet, you’re doing it wrong. Or, to be somewhat more accurate, you’re doing it incorrectly. ‘Oh, smashing,’ you’re probably not thinking, because no one speaks that way, ‘here comes another conceited invective railing against the way young people speak.’ Well, no. This isn’t a diatribe against the progression of the English language – it’s a plea to fight against its regression. It’s no real derma off our proboscis if you begin a sentence with an ‘and’ or a ‘but’, use nouns as verbs (as much as we may personally dislike having to ‘action’ things, rather than just do them) and end sentences with prepositions. You can even boldly split infinitives, if that takes your fancy. Knowing the difference between initialisms and acronyms doesn’t have to be your purview, and the who/whom conundrum really only exists for pedants these days, as much as it hurts to admit. Stephen Fry’s seminal explanation, in his fantastically entertaining (and elucidating) Stephen Fry’s Podgrams, is that English is a fluid language – the crux is that we reach a consensus for how to define and articulate new situations, then coin neologisms to suit. And if we all understand each other’s intent, then English has achieved its purpose. It’s one hell of an argument – how else do you describe the internet without the word ‘internet’, or social media without the universally accepted phrase? It’s just that thanks to both the former and the latter, there seems to be an incessant drive to codify and condense the English language in a way that reflects, rather eerily, the campaign of Newspeak enacted by Orwell’s antagonists in 1984. There’s a length and breadth of thought that only accompanies the prodigious, and even prolix, use of English. Since when did sending someone to a dictionary become a bad thing? And, when it comes to the more vernacular side of things, can a sardonic ‘WTF’ ever match the sheer pleasure, the pure cathartic bliss, of a vehement and well-placed ‘What the fuck?’ Does it afford an opportunity to season the expectoration with your own personal flair – ‘What the actual fuck?’, ‘What the deep-fried fuck?’ or even a left-field ‘What the shit?’ No, and ‘WTS’ will just confuse everyone involved. As the ever-eloquent Fry states, “Does anyone let the tripping of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to giddy euphoria?” This is the potential of the English language that you’re squandering each time you utter, ‘obvs, bae.’ English is such a beautiful language that has the potential not just to describe the vagaries and nuances of the world that surrounds us, but define the incredible personal, social and political events that unfold every day. So, please, use it to its full extent, or GTFO.