Has the English language lost its eloquence?

It’s been a busy month. Our daughter prolonged her stay by one week so that we were blessed to have her home for a month this time. It had been almost two years since her last trip home. It was sad having her leave on Tuesday, especially since we don’t know when she will be visiting again.

I am back and forth between my dad’s and my own home, as I talked about in my April 2’11 post. Since my computer was not behaving well – which set me back a bit – a stint at the shop was in order. Unfortunately,  the expected few days turned into a week – part of which I was home and suffering withdrawal with no computer. 😉 (Can anyone relate?) I’m still trying to sort and find things after it was ‘made like new’, but I feel assured it is operating better now.

Since I’m without a computer at Dad’s, I read instead. He has been a fan of Zane Grey for many years, and last week – when I finished the book I had taken with me – I picked up one of the many titles Dad has there. Soon after I began reading it, I realized that my choice for a first Zane Grey book to read may not have been the best. I wasn’t very happy with the rawness, but Grey was a very good writer regardless of the cruel reality in that novel. I was determined to finish the book – which I did – but it is unlikely that I will be reading more of his. Now I can say I read him, though. 🙂

What really fascinated me was the language, the beauty of the words used in 1925 when that book was written – and how some words have changed in usage.  It seems to me that over time our language has degraded – almost to grunts and phrases! What are we? – cave people now?  Do you feel that way at all? If I were to use some of the wording I would like to use in my writing would people think it too strange, antiquated? The English language used to be so refined and eloquent, but now it is getting to be less and less. Why do we have to ‘talk down’ to people? … ‘Don’t put that big word in your story, children won’t understand it’ – well let them ask about it! Don’t they like to learn anymore? *sigh* Or don’t we like to teach them to reach beyond themselves?

Okay, I have to end this post. You can see that I do get stirred up over such things. In fact, I KNOW I’m not the only one because a few weeks ago one of my blogging writer friends wrote a post about what is happening to our language. When I read her post I nodded in agreement, but after reading Zane Grey I realize even more how far and fast we have been falling .. and failing. Our language is broken. Why is it progression seems to always have the side effect of regression in some way?

So, my questions are scattered throughout this rant, but added to those are these:

Do you like to read books with vocabulary that challenges you a little?

Do you like to write stories like that, or do you withhold because of the chance that you’ll be told that you can’t pull it off these days, it won’t sell?

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12 responses to “Has the English language lost its eloquence?

  1. I’ve noticed the difference in the language, too, Polilla. I’m reading Tom Sawyer to my mother now and I’m amazed at the incredibly rich vocabulary!

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  2. I tend to read a lot of classics and love the rich language as well. But language has evolved over time and I enjoy listening to my grandchildren talk too. You can usually tell the kids that have been read to and encouraged to read as they can be very articulate and use larger words. I include some larger words in my books for 8 – 12 year olds and have been told to not use them. But I do anyway as I feel that is how the children will improve their vocabulary. Of course I don’t include too many to scare them off. In my next book I have a dexterous cat. Do you think some kids will look it up?

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    • I hope some kids will look it up! 🙂 That is what I was getting at .. I believe we should not talk down to children but give them words that will increase their knowledge, not to belittle or overwhelm them but to motivate and inspire them. Already my almost-6-year-old grandson talks about things and uses large words that seem beyond his little self – but he knows what he’s talking about. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment, Darlene, and for mentioning this post on Twitter. I certainly appreciate that. Blessings.

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  3. Just a few months ago I had to explain what I meant by “snappy patter” to two college graduates.

    “What?” One of them asked.

    “You know,” I said. “Reparte”

    “What?” the other one asked.

    At which point I shot myself in the head.

    Fortunately, I missed.

    Steve

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  4. I don’t mind reading books that challenge my vocabulary unless the book ends up being so challenging that I end up annoyed. Most times that isn’t the case.

    So far as my writing goes, I write whatever feels appropriate for that story. I definitely wouldn’t want to put my readers off , but I rarely end up choosing a different word because I feel the one I have chosen is too challenging for a YA audience. I just write. Good questions, Lynn. 🙂

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    • You always have something interesting and introspective to say, Laura.
      I think probably the writing to be more careful of regarding vocabulary would be for the youngest audience. We certainly don’t want them feeling defeated, only encouraged while they are learning when they don’t even realize they are being taught something. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  5. I agree with you, Lynn, about language and how it has gone down hill. I found an old book (from the 60’s) about writing and when I started reading it, I realized that my college textbooks have really been “dumbed down” compared to that “old” writing book. I say “hats off” to writers (and teachers) who refuse to give in to the status quo. We need more writers (and teachers) who will raise the standards back to where they should be so that children, teens and even adults can increase their vocabularies and become better educated.
    Thank you for bringing up this topic because it needs to be discussed.

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    • My mother was often upset about how teachers’ materials were inadequate. She taught children for over 30 years and certainly did teach them. She hated the so-called “whole language” method. Lack of phonics just allowed the child to go along and not learn the true speaking and spelling of words. I could go on and on, but .. I will spare you.
      All this to say .. I agree with you too, Elisheva. 🙂 Thanks for adding to the discussion.

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  6. bravebluealpha

    Great post, our drift has carried every day English into today. The glitter and shine or luster are gone. My wordpress flags any word worth having as a complex expression in red. It makes me sad and encouraged at the same time. We might not have the depth of Twain, but he never had the oppurtunity to use defrag,download, cyber or a plethera of new words that we do and we can always find Twain again with some good soundings.

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