The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 27.0°F | Overcast

The abuse of language is rampant

Most columnists write in the hope that people will see their columns and say "Hey! Nice piece of writing!" Not so for me. I have these little tumors in my head, you see, and they make me very irritable. So I write to vent my frustrations and to state my nagging noggin needlers. (I am only kidding about the tumors! It just seemed like an interesting way to grab your attention.) Anyway, one of the things that bothers me at the moment is the abuse the English language takes.

For example, in the original version of a recent column, I made a reference to "the darkling sky." However, the phrase "the darling sky"' was actually printed. This bothers me. I guess that somewhere along the newsroom chain of command, some editor saw the word "darkling" and cried out "No! That little "k" does not belong! Off with its head!" And with that he or shelunged at the delete key with his or herstubby finger and, with a primal scream, terminated the little "k's" existence. This, as I said, bothers me. "Darkling" is such a beautiful word. You might imagine a poet somewhere giving a child a quarter, saying "Kid, get me a darkling." And of all the words to replace "darkling," why was "darling" chosen? I doubt I am going to be lying in front of a cozy fire with my girlfriend and say to her "I love you darkling."

Another thing that bothers me is cutesiness in the English language. Words like "cuddly-wuddly" and "Kandy Korns." You would think, though, that it would be possible to escape this linguistic silliness at MIT. Not so. I received a flyer the other day inviting me to "The Johnson Games and Inaugural Picnic." This in itself was fine, but when the flyer told me to join "Chuck and Becky Vest," I was confused. "Hey," I asked myself, "Do I know Mr. and Mrs. Vest on such a personal first-name basis?" Apparently, I do. Well, if that is the case, then I want to apologize to you, Chuck and Becky, for forgetting about our no-doubt very close relationship. Let me make it up to you. Maybe we can all go out to dinner together, my treat. And if you are all tied up with your inauguration, Chuck, then let me take Becky out for a night on the town. Maybe we could take in a show, or take a moonlit stroll along the Charles. Know what I mean? Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more!

I seem to have digressed. Oh yes, I was writing some sort of harangue about the problems with cutesiness in the English language. I guess I can sum it all up and say that we need to stamp out this cutesiness. Its only imaginable use is in marketing, when using cutesy product names can capture the attention of people with at most a fourth-grade reading level. For example: "Hi there! Tired of a stable, democratic government? Why not try Remco-Brand Kommunism?! It was preferred by four out of five Warsaw-Pact nations only 10 years ago. (And now, for a limited time only, get up to 60 percent off the introductory price! But hurry, supplies are going fast!)"

And while I am on the subject of crumbling old-world institutions which have failed to unite people of all creeds and nations, consider Esperanto. For those of you who may not know, this is a language with all the subtlety of a wheat combine plowing through a field of Steuben crystal vases. Pretty much the only people who learn this language are overly-idealistic, second-rate philosophy-spouting liberal arts majors who have nothing better to do than learn a language that sounds like an obscure brand of Portuguese coffee. Why should I want to learn Esperanto? Everyone I have ever met, and will ever meet, speaks English perfectly well anyway. That is, except for those koo-koo krazy marketing executives.


Jason Merkoski is a freshman who is anxiously waiting to hear from you, Becky Vest.