By Jinmin Lee
Has anyone ever seen the words “thou” or “thee” these days? Probably not. Why? Nobody really needs them. Language is a medium of communication, which shifts and changes all the time. It would be absurd to assume that people will talk and interact with each other like we do today 50 years from now. However, there is a difference between changing language to better accommodate society and completely destroying the fundamentals of it. This boundary is like the Rubicon—it must not be crossed, for there is no return.
Nonetheless, starting from the 20th century, the English language unfortunately crossed this threshold and became altogether weaker. Grammatical errors, incorrect vocabulary connotations, and a lack of effort have been prevalent in writing. Here is an example of this “bad English”:
“Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder.” - Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossia)
We cannot properly understand this sentence because it is so poorly written. The idea is unclear to the extent that we begin to question if it exists in the first place.
But why is terrible English allowed today? Ever since the rise of postmodernism, the belief that meaning can be found from anything by anyone, bad English suddenly became a form of “art.” This idea sanctioned people to justify lazy writing without any consequences because they would simply state that the text can be interpreted in even more ways.
But why would people even want to mar their own English in the first place? In “The Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell criticizes those who write in “bad English,” claiming that they oftentimes are:
Incompetent writers; lacking the ability to find the best way to deliver a message
Trying to sound posh and entitled by using grand vocabulary that people do not understand
Attempting to hide the fact that they lack a meaning/significance in the text in the first place
As a consequence, the readers are left confused because of the incomprehensible writing. a major shortage of good writing is created to be left as a legacy, and creative thinking is discouraged. Until now, people pointed out these issues and fought against them. However, with the rising scepter of postmodernism, the resistance against bad English is failing. Because postmodernism legitimizes the three egregious issues mentioned by Orwell, it must be halted.
Furthermore, postmodernist thinkers do not even care about the author because they believe that “meaning” is only within the text. For instance, the New Critics, a branch of postmodernism, state that the author is considered “dead” when analyzing a text. This ignorance is pernicious because the author can easily get away with dangerous or lazy statements, saying that his intentions do not matter at all in the first place.
If it is still difficult to visualize the lazy way of writing, here is a short “poem” that may aid in understanding (keep in mind, this is an unrealistic and exaggerated example to simply help visualize a point):
Was it a random keyboard spam? Postmodernists will disagree. They will call it “art.” Did it take two seconds to create? Postmodernists will say that it does not matter.
See the nonsense being created? Under this logic, everyone can become “writers” without trying. Postmodernism annihilates competence and the very concept of meritocracy, the belief that people should be rewarded according to their level of ability.
To fight against this scepter, there should be a solid metric of “good English” in place for writers to follow. Note that Tiger Times and Yearbook at SIS would not be able to function properly without the thorough style guides that help the writers stay uniform.
Obviously, it is very difficult and completely absurd to try to circumscribe someone’s literature because it is nearly impossible to impede an entire generation’s freedom of speech and expression. However, a new set of guidelines that can demonstrate good English literature is absolutely necessary for the status quo. It would be important to read some classical books before the postmodern era. Noticing some of the similarities and differences between the two styles will aid anyone in spotting the anomalies of later texts. Getting in the habit of being sceptical about “art” by gaining the necessary knowledge to do so will prevent readers from being deceived by the postmodernists. Those who are unaware will have no choice but to accept postmodernist excuses. For example, someone who does not know any grammar will have no choice but to trust bad writers. By training, people won’t empower lazy, incompetent writers.