Fixed or Flexible ? The Language of Change.
There are those who wish to imprison language in an imaginary cage of time, and those who haven’t even noticed that there is a cage. The ebb and flow of grammar, punctuation and spelling must be as old as writing itself. The first written communication, be it a record of a judgement, or an expression of an emotion, must have been a nightmare for those who only believed in the spoken word. Just as the printing press revolutionised the sharing of knowledge, the first writing gave power to those without the training of memory. This expansion of communication gives a multitude of people the right, and the ability, to have their say heard by people outside of their immediate community.
The philosophers and idealists like to remind us of our individuality. Like to encourage us to celebrate our unique qualities as independent human beings. It’s surely no wonder then that language evolves as it is used. Common parlance, collectively created, or institutionally imposed, does appear to slow the process down, but changes are inevitable. From simple copying errors to imaginative interpretation, language reflects the society that is using it. A written error encapsulates that moment in a way that the spoken word cannot. The spoken word, like music, is ephemeral. The resulting memories are as many and varied as the minds that hear them.
The written word originally gave great promise to all by the sharing of information. Slowly but surely, this promise has been, and still is, converted by a culture that wishes to deny information. Deliberate misinformation, blatant omission, frequent restrictions on public written debate. These are all tactics used to interfere with our sense of independence.
In a small but not insignificant way, language needs to be flexible to allow individual expression. Hardly a pebble on the rushing river bed of conformity, but an obstruction, nevertheless. “I am a name, not a number”, states the apocryphal quote. Says it all, really.