Dispatches from the decline and fall of western grammaticisation*

(Wherein our intrepid hero longs for the weighty tome that is the O.E.D. – that he might cudgel a few people with it)

The fine and proud institution that is the Macquarie Dictionary is holding an online poll to determine the word of the year, out of what are, apparently, their latest additions. Amongst the sterling selections you will find “arse antlers” – because apparently “tramp stamp” simply doesn’t cut it, “germ phobia“, because apparently “Mysophobia” simply isn’t accurate enough, and “globesity” – whose definition seems to run counter to the word itself. Then there are the splendid suggestions of “Read dating” – a fad which I am sure will last sufficiently long to merit permanent canonisation in our lexicon, and “Helengrad” – a New Zealand colloquialism relating specifically to their current government, and therefore definitely worth immortalisation.

However, as irritatingly stupid as these “words” are, they are not the worst. No, that honour goes to the word “Couply” – adjective Colloquial 1. suited to a couple: a couply movie. 2. indicative of an established couple: matching clothes are so couply.

To begin with, this word clearly takes the adverbial form, despite [not-quite-so] clearly being an adjective. Of course, in defence of the Macquarie, the English language is most definitely in dire need of more irregular words. Secondly, it is a word that is entirely superfluous. Consider the two proffered usages: the first, “a couply movie” is easily satisfied simply by using the possessive form of “couple” – e.g. “a couple’s movie“. Certainly, there is precedent for this form of usage, such as “a chick’s flick” and “a lad’s mag“. Admittedly, it is usually abbreviated to “chick flick“, but that is most certainly as a function of rhyme, as opposed to “couply”, which is most certainly as a function of rampant stupidity. In the second example, the implication is quite simply entirely off. Matching clothes are not “couply”. They are creepy. See also: weird, sad, distressing, disturbing, awkward, and indicative of serial-killer potential.

I am reminded of an anecdote, related to me by my close friend Jordan, of an incident in an Australian court of law. An issue relating to the definition of a word came up, and eventually the Judge directed one of the junior associates to fetch a dictionary, in order to end the dispute. As the lackey headed for the door, the Judge called him back, instructing him: “Not the Macquarie.”

I am well aware that language evolves over time, and that not everyone will like all the changes. However, that does not mean that those in charge of overseeing and regulating the evolution of our language need to give in to every idiotic whim of the idle minds of the public. In this particular evolutionary path, I am more than happy to welcome a little intelligent design. Indeed, I do, in my own small way, hope to harness this power for change by resurrecting common usage of the 2nd person singular pronoun, “thou”. It is, after all, the appropriate singular form, and was only discarded in the Victorian era out of politeness. Which goes to show, I think, just how stupid Victorian era etiquette was. However, whilst I realise that one might feel, at least at first, a little stupidly self-conscious and “old-timey” using thou, one must remember that it worked perfectly well for Shakespeare, and the alternative is to accept that eventually, Macquarie will add “youse” to their dictionary.

Assuming, that is, the editors can still remember how to spell.

*See Macquarie, I can do it too, only better.

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Published in: on January 14, 2008 at 11:40 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] true that I hold but few motes of warmth for it in my heart, I can assure you that I approach each instance of rampant stupidity as an entirely novel event, and in a thoroughly dispassionate and scientific […]


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