Writing is Exciting
by tommy kirchhoff
For the next 24 hours after reading this, listen to the way people talk about sex. You’ll hear someone begin a sentence with the semantic cluster, “What it is is…” Note it in your head that that is a double verb. And the sentence you just read with “that that” would never make it into a major mainstream publication like Playboy; however, this is really the way Americans speak.
The fact is written English and spoken English have drifted so far apart over the last hundred years that literate people now choose to write the way they speak. The erotic e-mails you (as an intellectual) send out each day are drafted in a completely different language than the one grammarians want you to use. And in this world of me, me, me, (do me) most people sparsely remember how to write in any form other than first person, singular. The masturbatory pieces in Wild Utah certainly exemplify that.
Words are obviously the basis of our language, and the way we get each other hot. Otto Jeperson wrote “Growth and Structure of the English Language” in 1938. (He was probably getting’ some between chapters) To date, “Growth and Structure” is still the best documentation of the history and direction of English. Sixty years ago, Jeperson theorized that English was the most malleable language in the world. Where even the sexually adventurous French wouldn’t dare use words from another language in daily speech (and couldn’t consider proselytizing verbs to nouns, nouns to adjectives, vice-versa and etc.), Americans freely spit out foreign words, and openly accommodate cognates derived from other languages (fellatio’s not a cognate, but it does have French origins).
Our language is ever changing. The word “instead” comes from an amalgamation of a three-word semantic cluster used in Middle English. “In sted of” or “in the sted” or “in his sted” were used so much that they became something akin to Ebonics—words commonly used, but ones no “proper” grammarian would acknowledge. It took a few hundred years of collective truncation to skirt the bounds of the impotent grammarians. So now we say instead instead. (Same is true of fortnight; it used to be 14 nights)
See if you can use the following words in a sexual sentence, and then guess how long before they might show up as “new” words in the dictionary: kinda, hafta, gimme, didga, idnit, idnee, aoncare, ardee, cumear, arnchya, nuther, pry, wanew, doewanna, waidle, spoasta, wamee, lotsa, yewst, omgunna (or omina) (here’s a freebie: Omina run to the store and pick up some condoms).
Some words like “like” are like masturbation—26 times a day is the least you’ll use them. Other words are para-linguistic. Um, uh and hmmm aren’t exactly words, but hotdogging isn’t necessarily sex; both are done indiscriminately because they feel good. You know what I mean…
Now to go forth: of course novels like Harry Potter or The Red Tent are selling well, but really, these kinds of literature have lost broad appeal. If a passage doesn’t contain something like “he slipped his mast of manly seamanship into my rocking hull,” you’re bound to be missing some readers.
I write short, humorous, artistic works for several reasons. I want even those with the shortest, stoner attention spans to enjoy me work. I want aristocrats to ponder me art. And I want a few people to laugh.
So many years from now when our language has changed, all of us will have changed with it; but the grammarian will be dearly searching for his dangling participle.