In the past couple months I have noticed several bloggers here and elsewhere have been using the term Electeds. I must protest. We elect people to represent us, we are not creating a class of individuals. We have a problem with elected representatives acting as if winning an election has made them wiser than the hoi poloi. Referring our these fellow humans as Electeds only re-enforces this unfortunate situation.
Furthermore, using electeds is sloppy shorthand that encourages sloppy reasoning. Be specific when referring to our representatives. Clarity and accuracy is next to Godliness. Or something.
I am curious about this sign and the language used. Why does it read "cannot" be responsible? Why not say, more plainly, "is not" responsible?
In context, it might read, "We are not reponsible for car or contents."
Cannot be? Really?
Language is important. Call me persnickety if you want. But it is important. Language is very influential on, informative of, and integral to, culture. It is vital to be conscious of our words, and their effects.
When communicating, there is the intended message, the message that gets sent, and then the message that is received. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make all three match up. Patience is a virtue, and so is compassion. Listening and sharing honestly and openly is certainly helpful.
In the above example, "Is not" (or "are not") seems better, to me, than "cannot."
Peace, Berd[2/16/09: edited for clarity, style and accuracy]
Here's an article by Steven Pinker on the issue of language and the widespread view that English is in a state of decay and one step away from total collapse.
Language is a human instinct. All societies have complex language, and everywhere the languages use the same kinds of grammatical machinery like nouns, verbs, auxiliaries, and agreement. All normal children develop language without conscious effort or formal lessons, and by the age of three they speak in fluent grammatical sentences, outperforming the most sophisticated computers. Brain damage or congenital conditions can make a person a linguistic savant while severely retarded, or unable to speak normally despite high intelligence. All this has led many scientists, beginning with the linguist Noam Chomsky in the late 1950's, to conclude that there are specialized circuits in the human brain, and perhaps specialized genes, that create the gift of articulate speech.
But when you read about language in the popular press, you get a very different picture. Johnny can't construct a grammatical sentence. As educational standards decline and pop culture disseminates the inarticulate ravings and unintelligible patois of surfers, rock stars, and valley girls, we are turning into a nation of functional illiterates: misusing [hopefully], confusing [lie] and [lay], treating [bummer] as a sentence, letting our participles dangle. English itself will steadily decay unless we get back to basics and start to respect our language again.
The issue was raised in another thread that African Americans tend to speak differently than the majority culture (who's language is commonly referred to as Standard American English, or SAE). Often, the way that people characterize the English spoken by African Americans (African American Vernacular English, or AAVE) is as a degenerate version of SAE. Actually, AAVE is a highly systematic dialect of English which is as expressive and communicative as any other dialect on the planet. Indeed, there are important structural differences between AAVE and SAE that suggest that the two dialects may have developed in parallel from early in American history.
The first point to make is that there is really no such thing as "the English language," per se. English is really just a collection of dialects, SAE, AAVE, Spanish American English, British English, Australian English, etc. The "language" label is really a political distinction. Linguists like to say that a language is just a dialect with an army and a navy.
Many linguists think that the AAVE dialect may have originated first as a pidgin of English (think: simple trade language), and then developed into a creole (fully expressive human language). This is supported by the fact that plantations contained Africans from many different language communities, thus creating an unstable linguistic environment. (The process of creolization has been documented in several other geographic locations by the linguist Derick Bickerton.)