Words Are Dying

by williamldennis

My 3rd grade teacher once told me that each page of your book should have 1-4 words you don’t know. Less than 1 and what you’re reading is too easy. More than 4 and it’s frustrating.

As the revolution of user generated content continues — blogs, tweets, listacles, photo apps, facebook posts — I’m left wondering if our collective vocabulary as a society is beginning to rot.

Technology, in its relentless march towards convenience, is progressively eliminating our need to write our own words.

Spell check is partly to blame. Twitter deserves some scorn. Autocorrect. Google’s predictive serach isn’t helping. Predictive typing is coming full steam to your text messages on the next iPhone.

We’re living in a world where the need to wield language is being eliminated and, where not eliminated, standardized and therefore sterilized.

Keep your emails short. Don’t use words people might not know. In business and in life, misunderstandings can ruin a project, a career, a life. I’m being alarmist but you get the point.

We’ve prioritized simplicity and communication over specificity and nuance. We’ve prioritized colorful emoji over colorful language.

It’s disconcerting because, like other, I believe our ability to think is often constrained by our vocabulary. Our lexicon is a sort of glass box that houses our ideas.

In an era where a digital thesaurus is at your fingertips, I’d like to see people get the same delight at inserted a unique synonym into a text as they do a funny gif.

As fans, builders, and consumers of technology, perhaps we can push language once again to its Shakespearean boundaries.

My name is Will Dennis and my current favorite word is “gloaming” — it’s a noun that describes the time after sunset but before dark. I think of it as the time that fireflies come out.

I’m currently building Hopscotch. You should follow me on Twitter here.