Friday, February 06, 2015

Fractured Grammar

Perhaps it is just my linguistics training, but I find myself increasingly annoyed by the fracturing of grammar rules that seems to be the newest trend in signage and advertising.

At my gym a sign next to the wipes for cleaning the machines says “We like clean.”  Not we like cleanliness, or we like our machines clean.  Just “We like clean.”  The word “clean” is an adjective.  It is not something you can like.  You can only like nouns.  That is how the English language works.

The Heinz ketchup bottle in my refrigerator says, “HOW DO YOU HAPPY?”  I read it and thought what??  You don’t do happy.  Happy is an adjective.  It’s something you are, not something you do.  The back of the bottle explains, “Tell us about when you’re happiest…” 

It could be argued that these are examples of the decline in effective usage of the English language.  It’s sloppy, lazy English.  Maybe.  But this assault on grammar rules is intentional.  The writers know they are violating the rules of English grammar.  It used to be that a grammar error, intentional or otherwise, was considered unprofessional.  No one would put a grammar error into print.

Now, it seems to be the new trendy, edgy thing to do.  It bothers me.  As it comes to be more and more commonplace, it may even lead to a degradation of the English language and a less effective and accurate communication.  Those who see it now may realize it’s grammatically incorrect.  The next generation may not.

But I think what bothers me even more is that it feels as though it may be the latest reverberation of our culture’s rejection of absolutes.   I will decide for myself what is right and wrong.  I will decide what my gender is.  I will decide what is right for me and no one else will guide me, not even a supreme being who just might know a little more than I do.

Has this arrogance even extended to English grammar?  I will use an adjective where I should use a noun because it’s easier and people can guess what I’m really saying.  I will decide how to communicate and with what words.  It makes no difference if I’m violating grammar rules.  I’m in charge.  I will decide.

As the culture has degraded, perhaps the language will follow.  In many ways, as a country, we no longer understand the difference between right and wrong.   As we have turned our backs on God we have drifted morally in random directions, like a ship without a rudder.

We know so little.  If only we could imagine the smallest fraction of the wisdom of God and how much we could gain by surrendering to His rules, His guidelines, His commandments, His love….


Salome Ellen said...

I think you are right. But of course this has been going on for years, with the "verbing" of nouns. "Do you want to party??" My current adjective/noun pet peeve is "Eat healthy!"

Rosemary said...

That's true, Salome Ellen. It has been going on for years. And even just looking at literature-- say Jane Austin, for instance....our written language now seems so much simpler, less elegant. You know?