My husband and I have a running debate: He is in favor of simplifying the English language in order to ensure clear, unambiguous communication. Me? Every time he suggests it, I feel the color draining from my world; it is as if someone has suggested doing away with the 64-color box of Crayola Crayons and “simplifying” the product offering by only stocking the little 8-color boxes. Or burning out some of the rods and cones in my eyes, so that I see red, green, and blue – but not the subtle shades and differences that make chartreuse, or mauve, or toasted cinnamon with a touch of Bing cherry. That is what language, writing, the manipulation of words means to me.
A similar discussion arose on CJ Cherryh’s Facebook page:
The Oxford Dictionaries suggests that “may” and “might” are interchangeable, except when it comes to discussing past events that did not actually occur; in that context, it’s better to use “might have.”
We have been having a lively discussion of whether language ought to evolve or whether we ought to stick to persnickety rules taught only by ancient grammarians who are likely rolling over in their graves over our use of split infinitives, our laziness in using “who” when we ought to use “whom,” and our pragmatic ending of certain sentences with prepositions.
I’m willing to concede a few formalities, but I am not willing to abridge the Thesaurus or turn that weighty compendium into a small pocket guide to colorful, obsolete colloquialisms. Language is power. Having more tools in one’s toolbox can never be a bad thing, surely.
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