I think of myself as a humble person. That’s why I have my own blog. (Actually, it’s two blogs and an online portfolio.) But modest as I am, I must confess that in the past I was somewhat of a legend. A grammar legend. My friends and family would never admit it because, well, they were probably jealous, but it’s true.
I knew the rules, the exceptions, and when to pause for effect. Like here. Not only did I know how to diagram a sentence; I could do it in less than a minute. I was even part of human sentences that were then verbally diagrammed by our eighth grade class. I was always the comma. (Thanks Mrs. Gilbert; that was a good week.)
These days I’m feeling less confident and certainly less cocky (about grammar). I remember the terms, and I remember the rules…but I cannot remember which terms go with which rules and don’t even get me started on those exceptions! And pauses? I fear that I pause too much: it’s disruptive. I need a refresher course in grammar.
To become the legend I once was, I’m turning to a college favorite, Martha Kolln’s Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices and Rhetorical Effects (5th Edition). Besides, it’s a convenient week to brush up since I just moved to a city where I know two people.
Upon rereading the introduction, however, I am forced to pause (again: pausing) and consider a few larger questions I have about grammar. Kolln explains that before we even know how to speak, we internalize grammar and the patterns of speech from the speakers around us. Thus, grammar is learned far before it is ever taught.
This makes sense to me, but still I scribble in the margin, “Is this still true? Has the digital age changed this at all?” And here, I’m posing those same questions to you, my three loyal subscribers: my best friend, my boyfriend, and my dad.
In a world full of emoticons, abbreviations, and acronyms, do children still have internalized rule sets? And if they do, are they what we accept as grammar? Is it possible that the above trends affect only text communication, not speech? Or, have the shortcuts of today actually affected the people of tomorrow? And does any of this really matter?
I understand that language constantly changes to fit the needs of the society that uses it; I only wonder if we’re beginning to see macro changes in language today rather than the micro changes I suspect altered language in the past.
If communication is changing to a hybrid of shortcuts, are we losing anything? Obviously society is still functioning…sort of. Maybe these questions are just originating from my limited observation of people very like me in age, interests, and region. Or perhaps I just fear change in general and hate that everyone seems to love acronyms and I do not.
As my renewed relationship with grammar blossoms into a better understanding, I personally intend to be more purposeful with words and structure. I also aim to be a better observer of the speech and writing of others. Possibly I’ll discover that I’m just a worrier. Maybe I’ll realize I’m hanging out with the wrong speakers or spending too much time on the Internet. But surely I’ll write another blog about my findings.
Thanks for reading, and please, use your words.