Oh the culture of dumb. How long must we suffer thee?
I'm certain most of us have heard by now the lexical tale of Sarah Palin urging Muslims to "please refudiate," so I won't be recapping the event. While anyone can flub up their speech, especially as mental bandwidth runs low due to ever-increasing usage demands, it is the public reaction that gets me.
Sure, you have your political opportunists on the left, jumping up and down like the class know-it-all and shouting "That's not a word! That's not a word! Check the dictionary! It's not there! Type it in Word! You get a red squiggly line!" That is a bit off-putting, but it is the response from the conservative right that has me seething. The basic gist of the tea bagger reply is: "English is an ever-changing language. So she made up a word? What's wrong with that? You high falutin' college boys do it all the time and that's ok. Why can't a redneck do it?" Palin takes it further by saying that "Shakespeare made up words" and that we should "celebrate it."
Fortunately, there are still a handful of scholars in the United States who have dedicated their academic careers to studying Shakespeare and they have something to say on the matter. This clip from CNN features a tasty quote from just such an English professor, where he points out that Shakespeare often made up words to come out of the mouths of characters that he wanted to make fun of. People like Palin.
Yes, Virginia. One may compose a new word intelligently from solid context and from need for a new term. Usually this is done by someone who knows what they're doing. But there is a way that the English language is meant to be spoken and it does not provide the speaker with license to concoct any word they wish for any reason or to butcher words that already exist. Most offensive to me is the notion that anyone, regardless of political affiliation, would think that this is permissible. Would the tea baggers allow for Ebonics or Spanglish from a political representative? I don't think so. Yep. Butcher words, breed distrust and tunnel vision, but whatever you do don't raise my taxes.
During the course of my lifetime, America has steadily become the most anti-intellectual nation in the world. I have heard people hurl bitter bursts of bile towards those with Ivy League educations. That has "blossomed" into invectives towards anybody who ever went to college. We don't like smart people here in the U.S. As a matter of fact, we just don't trust them. I know this from my 4 year imprisonment in a Red State high school and even at times the attitudes of students in undergrad. The dumber you act, the more accepted you'll be. Congratulations, Sarah. This puts you in perfect shape for 2012.
Yep, just can't trust those college types. If someone's reading a book instead of watching NASCAR, reality TV, or CMT, then you really need to keep an eye on them. Why, they could be a liberal, a terrorist, a socialist, a communist, a Muslim, a Nazi, unpatriotic or all of the above. So many have chosen to embrace "stupid" as a way of life. And it is a choice. I don't believe my gray matter to be inherently superior to anyone else's. I just happen to have chosen to do something with it. Yet many do not make that choice or perhaps have the opportunity to make that choice...and what a fertile playground that creates for anyone with half a brain and the desire to manipulate. I have these hyperbolic daydreams of smart people banding together as monks did in medieval times, hoarding their books in fortified monasteries. I envision something on the order of the ending to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns or James Cameron's future in The Terminator. Small collectives of insurrectionists against the popular norm of self-selected stupid. "We who are not as others."
In a small way it's already begun. Shakespeare devotees have taken to Twitter and have begun to Tweet the saga of Sarah Palin. "To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals, or to quit half-term, and by opposing, rake in speaking fees."
The Bard, no doubt, would approve.
For Dictionary.com's take on the matter, click here.
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