July 8, 2012

Welcome to Dekkerspeak

I SEE THAT Laura Dekker, the world’s youngest solo circumnavigator, is still busy writing a book about her round-the-world adventure. She’s now crossing the Pacific en route to a new home in New Zealand with a crew, a young man called Bruno Ottens. She’s still appealing to the public for money to fund her trip, and also apparently busy inventing new English words.
“Mweh,” she says in her blog, “I felt so bad.” And again: “Blegh ... the wind has dropped ...”

She should take care. By the time she gets to New Zealand, the Kiwis won’t be able to understand her, thanks to the mwehs and bleghs and whatever else she might be cooking up linguistically.

*   *   *

WE LIVE in rude times. Perhaps Congress sets the example for the ill-natured discourse that pervades our country today. There is a lack of good old fashioned courtesy, and a whole host of demands for individual rights that are not in the interest of the community as a whole. Too much liberty is being taken in the name of free speech to indulge in foul language, spoken and written — harsh language that is intended to shock, if not hurt.

Women are as guilty as men in this respect. Recent blogs by women sailors in Seattle are rife with four-letter words. Unnecessary four-letter words. They add nothing but foul language to the narrative, except perhaps an indication of the writer’s nature.

I understand that modern American women find themselves in direct competition with men in many ways. They certainly seem to sense a need to match men in profanity. But not all men use f-words in their regular speech, and even fewer use them in their written language. The presence of a four-letter word does not of itself add artistic merit to written language. It adds only shock, and then only to start with. Swearing is a poor and lazy substitute for lively, descriptive writing, which demands those other nasty four-letter words, hard work.

I, for one, could use a little gentleness, a little modesty, a little reserve, in the blogs I read. I don’t care to know that the lady sailor was upset because the f-ing anchor got f-ing stuck in the f-ing mud. I don’t care to know that the lady blogger moving aboard her new boat found a nice place to stow her thongs. Where she keeps her intimate underwear is not my business. Or anybody else’s.

Today’s Thought
Politeness is the flower of humanity. He who is not polite enough is not human enough.
— Joubert, Pensées

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(10)“You must be from animal welfare, sir — I’ll fetch him a spoon at once.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Rational Root said...

Language changes, and you've been hiding on your boat too long. 8-)

Meh, Mweh, and various other spellings is now part of the English language.

"In the 2001 episode "Hungry, Hungry Homer", Lisa spells out the word for emphasis ("M - E - H"), after Homer tries to interest her (Lisa) and Bart into going to the theme park "Blockoland"."


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more about the four-letter words. Some think it's wonderfully freeing that there are no more "forbidden" words, but my problem (aside from not wanting to live in a verbal septic tank all day) is - what do you do when you legitimately want some shock value after all the "good" words have been neutered by common use?

Bill Healy

Deb said...

Courtesy is most definitely a lost art. Its basis is in respect which has disappeared as well, it seems. I wish I could blame anyone else, but my generation of the 60s produced the "me" attitude that so pervades the subsequent generations so there is no one else to blame but myself.

S/V Kintala

Anonymous said...

Agree on the foul language and overuse of shock words but can't say I care about the details of storage when moving aboard a boat. What really intrigues is the notion that thongs hold some specific advantage while aboard a sailboat. If you want to bring it up, tell the story (delicately if possible:).

LittleCunningPlan.com said...

I realize that language develops, changes and evolves over generations so I don't have much trouble with words like 'Meh'. I use it myself since I like the way it rolls off the tongue. I agree, however, that I easily lose interest in a writer or speaker who has to throw expletives into each sentence in order to express the strength of emotion they feel. If that's the only tool they have to rely on, I move on fairly quickly.
What really gets my goat is when people don't spell correctly and don't use reasonable grammar. Have you noticed how many people actually write in sentence fragments? Sure, this is a good tool to use for some kind of emphasis, but as a general writing style, it's irritating. I don't blame the '60s generation for this. It's the overall dumbing down and lowering of standards across the board. The differences between the words their, there, and they're, for example, are lost on a large segment of the population. Don't even get me started on it's and its, or two, to, and too. It hurts.