My sister recently shared with me an article that I found to be both humorous, disturbing, and sort of sad. Until I thought about it. I'm still thinking about it.
So I have decided to take a close look at the journey that the English language has taken. I have chosen excerpts from what are generally considered to be classics in our language. I start off with the poem of Beowulf, simply because it is the earliest writing in our language of which I am aware. (See how I avoided ending my sentence with a preposition?) Chaucer is considered to be the father of English literature, and Shakespeare is known as England's national poet. Jane Austen I selected simply for being my personal favorite, and Stephanie Meyer I think was an obvious choice with which to end my review. (See how careful I am being?) I wonder what Stephanie Meyer will be hailed as, a hundred years from now?
From the first line of the poem Beowulf (3rd or 4th century):
Hwaet we Gar-Dena in gear-dagum
peod-cyninga prym gefrunon,
hu da aepelingas ellen fremedon.
Let's move on to Geoffrey Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales (1300's), shall we?
Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
A little Shakespeare (1500's). Let's go with Hamlet, as, yes Mrs. Springman, I still know it:
To be, or not to be. That is the question. Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them. To die, to sleep, no more. And by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, to sleep perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub for in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause. (I'll stop there. You're welcome.)
Continuing on to Jane Austen (1700's) (a personal favorite):
IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
And at last, I thought we'd finish with Stephanie Meyer's infamous Twilight (2000's) (another personal favorite)
I'd never given much thought to how I would die - though I'd had reason enough in the last few months - but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.
Wherein I play the Devil's Advocate:
What exactly is so wrong about the misuse of an apostrophe, or comma, or misspelled words? Do you suppose that Shakespeare, or Charles Dickens never made a grammatical error? In my introduction to Chaucer's Canturbury Tales the man who translated the copy I have wrote that there are some issues with the original text. Each editor and translator takes a different approach to dealing with these mistakes, but they are there in the original. And this is the man regarded as The Father of English Poetry. We frequently hold these ancient writers up as the ideal, and yet they were not perfect. Not only that, but our language truly goes back so much farther even them. If we were to try and resuscitate the English language, don't we really just mean to bring it back to the English we learned in our own second grade classroom? For I'm sure we would all willingly agree that it would be useless to try and bring back the English of Beowulf. Personally, I blame Geoffrey Chaucer. It was his brilliant idea to write colloquially, and I think that was one of the initial downfalls (Although, clearly not the first, as his English was already drastically different from that of the poem of Beowulf). For isn't that what is happening to our language today, for instance, on Facebook statuses when I see "i luv yuu"? (which, incidentally, I have seen.) And so, I ask again. What is so wrong with writing how we speak?
Please, discuss. (And, please keep in mind that that was me playing the Devil's Advocate because I thought it was an interesting position. It does not reflect the full range of my actual thoughts on this topic.)