A Grammar Cop Turns in her Badge
Although my writing is full of hasty typos, my inner Grammar Police is pretty vocal. Sometimes it is everything I can do to keep from spray-painting road signs to encourage motorists to drive slowly, rather than slow.
I was raised that way. When I brought my new husband home to meet my grandmother her first words to us were that I was pronouncing his last name (now mine) incorrectly. I wasn’t – but that’s a good example of the tree from which my apple fell. My own apples (now trees themselves) are careful speakers and writers, too.
I understand the intentional use of bad grammar for emphasis, as in “That ain’t gonna happen!”
I understand poetic license. “He don’t love you like I love you” sounds better than “He doesn’t love you like I love you” in the cira-1975 pop tune.
And now, finally, I understand something else about language. Usage changes. The rules change. And that’s not always a bad thing.
If language didn’t change we would still say words like “forsooth” and “verily.” When I was a girl I read a manners book that instructed polite young ladies to acknowledge a kindness with “I thank you.” The curt “thanks” was rude.
In modern casual writing we now use terms like “ok” and “cool.”
Nonetheless, I have often railed against the changes in our language, fearing that when we lose the form of language we lose some of its function. I worry that that our language is becoming less beautiful and less precise.
Recently I read something that changed my understanding. The evolution of our language is not always about apathy, laziness and stupidity. Sometimes it’s about brilliance and creativity.
One of my favorite writing blogs is “Daily Writing Tips.” Recently Maeve Maddox shared “The New, Delightful use of Because” which outlines and praises a new slang way of using the word “because” as a preposition. For example, “I’m going to the movies because, popcorn!” Or, “I signed up to take senior citizens to the theatre because, hey, free plays!”
Maddox admits that not all grammarians will dig this new use of “because,” but it seems she does, and so do I, because, hey, clever sentence structure.
Communication needs to be precise. But words are also the material of creativity. The evolution of language is not always about dumbing down. Sometimes it’s about lightening up. Sometimes it’s about our cultural agreement of what things mean. Sometimes new language trends are smart, sassy and descriptive. And that’s cool because, innovation!
While Maddox was clear to point out the obvious - that the "because" preposition should not be used in formal writing, I didn't get that her use of the word "delightful" in the title was actually sarcastic. She doesn't like it. but I still do.