One of the (many) things I love, Love, LOVE about blogging is that I get to learn so much. All kinds of smart people bring, right to my computer, articles and ideas, thoughts and possibilities, and arguments and theories that I may not otherwise ever have seen had it not been for this little forum.
I’ve been thinking a lot about linguistics lately. Between John and Jangari, (thanks, guys!) I’ve been getting quite the intellectual workout, and I’m loving every second of it. I do have to say, though, that I’ve been thinking about language and its implications for a lot longer than I’ve been blogging and, even before one of my linguist buddies (I think it was John) suggested it, I’ve been reading The Language Log.
This morning, Bill Poser submitted an entry about how the military has decided that “soldier” should be capitalized in writing. The theory is that the capitalization will lend more respect to the word and, if I’m carrying out the thought to its intended conclusion, bring more credibility to the military as a whole.
I have always known that a lot – a LOT – of what I now understand as prescriptive grammar is based on social issues; grammar as a construct that is used to define and enforce social divisions among the speakers of a language. I, myself, have been – and often still am – guilty of making judgements about people based on their abilities – or not – to manipulate the “rules” of English. It seems to me that the military is tapping into this almost instinctual practice of creating artificial status through the use of language, and I’m not sure that it’s going to work.
For one, how much respect or status REALLY, authentically comes from language? Even I, who just admitted to being a language snob, don’t believe that capatilizing a noun gives it some sort of superior status – the evangelical christians are trying it, and that’s not working for me, either. The status of a group and the respect it deserves are derived from its actions, behaviors, and policies, not by whether or not we hit the “shift” key when typing the nouns we associate with it.
Second, given the almost abysmal state of modern English grammar rules and the shocking lack of knowledge that the average Joe has about them, do they really think anyone is going to get it?