Marshall’s Law

A few weeks ago as I was absent-mindedly channel-surfing, I came across Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The nervous contestant had just reached the $4,000 level. The question turned out to be about the use of a semicolon. This completely astounded me. Not a question about obscure Australian history or the mating habits of the lemur, but simple grammar. It has apparently gotten to the point where we assume the majority of the population can’t string two sentences together without making a mistake, and those that do manage to keep grammatical errors out of their texts are deemed worthy of applause. Why is this? Have we all forgotten how to write?

Most of us use the internet and text messaging many times a day to communicate with friends. It is paradoxically this technological advancement that is partly to blame for the degradation of our language. In this age of online chat and text messages, we have sacrificed writing quality for “time efficiency”. I guess it’s too much to ask for people to write that extra “y” and “o” in “you”. It must be hard to press those two extra keys, and it takes time. I don’t have that extra 1.31 seconds it takes to actually spell “you” correctly!

Unfortunately, spelling mistakes are everywhere. I frequently see “it’s” and “its” being mixed up, as well as “they’re” and “their”. Are these not basic things that people are taught in elementary school? Were we all too busy eating paste to pay attention the day they explained the difference?

Language is an evolving thing. Interestingly, not everyone agrees on the rules. Take the New York Times for example. As I was reading an article entitled “The Starbucks Aesthetic”, my eye automatically focused on the apostrophe within “CD’s”. You might not think so, but this little apostrophe has caused a big debate in the grammatical world. Some say that an apostrophe is needed to pluralize initialisisms (e.g. CD’s, DVD’s, NGO’s), while others argue that apostrophes should generally be used to denote possessive status. I frankly adhere to the latter ideology. So when I saw that little punctuation mark in the New York Times, I just stared at it and silently wept. Well, maybe not.

Before you think I’m completely nuts and my nightmares consist of

random giant punctuation marks attacking me, let me reassure you I’m not insane. It just bothers me when I see obvious blunders. Grammatical and spelling mistakes are everywhere, and sometimes they have huge consequences.

The Kazakh government learned this the hard way. This past month, it was revealed that the central bank in Kazakhstan had misspelled the word “bank” on its 2,000 tenge and 5,000 tenge notes. Oops.

The French language is not immune to slaughter either. When people don’t outright anglicize words, they butcher their meaning and spelling. This disappoints me, seeing as Quebec French speakers have fought for so long for the right to continue speaking their language. The British government

should have stopped wasting time on figuring out how to assimilate French Canadians. They should have realized that over time, and left to their own devices, they would destroy their own language themselves. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t want to insult anybody who is francophone. It’s simply because, as one myself, I fear for the future quality of French in Quebec.

I believe the language you speak is the essence of your culture, and should therefore be well-treated.

As I write this, I realize there are probably a few mistakes in this text and my credibility will most likely be shot (again). I doubt it though, because after all, me write’s English good.

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