Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena
unclehyena

Questing Beast

"I am errant," the young idiot said proudly.

"You're lost?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "I'm errant, like a knight errant."

"Then you mean to say that you are at errantry; when one invokes archaic meanings of words, one must also adopt the appropriate archaic syntax."

The young idiot threatened me with a paperback dictionary. "But it says here..."

"The dictionary is wrong. Or rather, the situation at hand is of sufficient subtlety as to be beyond the scope of that particular document."

"But..."

"Trust me."

I rather doubt the young idiot gained anything from that encounter; he was, after all, an idiot. I, on the other hand, was led to coin the word "errantrist" (one who practices errantry) and write a small poem, so the encounter was hardly a total loss.

//
Errol the errant knight errant
Had a problem with some of his vows;
He was often off taking his pleasure
When he should have been taking his bows.
Though his courage could never be questioned,
And his sword-arm was second to none,
It seemed that each maiden he'd rescue
Was no maiden when Errol was done.
(Can be sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon", if you must...)
//

All of this comes up because I chanced upon yet another discussion of the fundamental fluidity of language, and I felt the topic deserved a bit of a rant.

Sometime in the latter half of the twentieth century, lexicographers of English collective decided to abrogate their former position as arbiters of the language, and to become merely journalists, reporting the vicissitudes of the language without significant comment. This change was not merely wrong headed and unfortunate, but EVIL; un-arbitrated language devolves inevitably into white noise.

Language is humankind's greatest invention, and its most powerful and beautiful servant. Language is also willful and contrary (he said, lapsing into a fit of anthropomorphism) to an extent that makes Fire look friendly and cooperative by comparison. Language was invented to convey meaning from one person to another, but it takes significant glee in twisting and obfuscating that meaning. Yes, Language is fluid and evolutionary, but it is a primary goal of education to resist this tendency, and it is the duty of all educated persons to fight against linguistic drift at every opportunity.

Neologisms are inevitable; truly new things do occur under the sun, and Language must deal with them. But drift and mutation of existing vocabulary and syntax threaten the existence, or at least the accessibility, of all that has gone before, and as such must be resolutely resisted.

Uncle Hyena
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