Monday, January 5, 2009

Language Wars

Dating someone who is smarter than you are can be an emotionally exhausting kind of experience, especially if you consider yourself to be pretty smart. Feeling good about your moderately high IQ and your typicaly good intellectual performance, especially when compared with your social peers, is deadly if you happen to start dating someone with an IQ higher than your monthly grocery budget. Of course, you can always try to console yourself with the fact that your apartment is way sweeter than his, but eventually you realize that he's way too smart to even care that his apartment is shitty, and that the best route to take is to graciously accept defeat and simply brag about him to your friends.

Of course, you still try to console yourself. There has to be something that you do better than him. No one is perfect, right? He certainly doesn't have a sweet rack like yours. But, like the apartment, his lack of nice tits does not seem to bother him. "Okay," you say to yourself. "Sure he is only twenty-four and already he speaks three languages, dances, cooks, is doing a PhD in applied physics, and sorts his recycling properly, but how is his grasp on the intracacies of English grammer? Ha! English is not even his first language. Surely I must have the market cornered on English grammer in this relationship."

Then, the bitch goes and says something about a verb tense you weren't even sure really existed, or differentiated itself from other verb tenses, in English.

Quick! What verb tense is this?

The problem, we agreed after some debate, was that hard-and-fast rules for the English language don't exist. Well, they do, but no one pays attention to them. French has the Academie Française, which currently protects the purity of the French language by freaking out over texting shorthand. What does English have? Oxford? Do you actually listen to Oxford? Does Oxford even bother?

Unfortunately, the English, the "inventors" of the English language, sprinkled a whole bunch of bastard colonies all over the world, one of which got uppity and usurped them as top dog, especially in cultural terms. Very few people want to sound like an English professor these days. They want to say "errrbody", "shotty", "oh noes!" and "lawl". My own sister speaks in acronyms ("No BD!"). I confess that I myself have said "Imma luuuvs you," more than once (but I did it ironically, which makes it okay). Can you imagine if Quebec suddenly became cooler than France, and everyone wanted to speak joual and say "Enteka, m'a aller faire un tit tour du béckosse"? The entire Academie Française would choke on their triple-crème brie.

Another problem with English might be that it wasn't so much invented as it was collected. As James Nicoll once observed, "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." Modern English almost isn't even a language, when you think about it. It's just its own little patois of conglomerated borrowed words that developed its own grammatical structure (and then colonized the fuck out of every country that wasn't populated by white people).

Usually, when someone says "I be", I assume that they are hilariously cultural-appropriating ebonics.

In a language where a made-up word distinguishing between something real and something imaginary goes in the dictionary and people actually argue in favour of their right to correctly use the non-word "irregardless", have we just given up completely and decided to go with the flow? Furthermore, is this a bad thing?

As for dating people far smarter than anyone else you know will ever be, I am still kind of ambiguous on whether or not I recommend it. All I can say is that a manageable IQ allows me to enjoy certain simple pleasures more than he does. Like being able to drunk-text someone and not run through every possibility re: what they'll say in the morning.


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