Language Information

English Language Sputtering Online Like an Old Ford!

Sad, but true. Just about everywhere you look online, the English language is suffering a fate worse than death. The problem, in reality, is so widespread that it has begun to affect all aspects of the language. "But, what on Earth does this have to do with Internet marketing?" you may be asking. Well, my fellow netpreneur...Everything!

It has everything to do with Internet marketing if you wish to portray yourself, and be perceived as, a Marketing Professional on the internet. Just remember, professionally speaking, Image is Everything. On the other hand, if you're not particularly interested in putting your 'best foot forward' when marketing your services or products, and I really hope this is not the case, then none of this applies to you.

Obviously, we don't have time here to do an in-depth study of the many instances of, what I would term, "casual disdain" I've witnessed online. So, in order to illustrate my point, I'll concentrate on a small, but vital component of the English language: the innocent, harmless apostrophe.

Allow me to try to paint a picture for you. A long, long, time ago, around the time of the De Soto, the Corvair, bellbottoms, the VW "bug" (ring a bell?), and before beatniks became known as hippies, you could look at advertisement copy and expect, to some degree, that it had been reviewed and, presumably, corrected.

In other words, it was safe for women, children, and other life forms to view it, and read its content without suffering any permanent, debilitating psychological damage, such as a hard to diagnose speech impediment, or maybe an involuntary nervous twitch across one cheek.

What I see most of us doing now, at the dawn of the 21st Century, is that we read ad copy, and then, because it's in bold letters on carefully selected background, surrounded by pretty pictures, we accept its message as Gospel truth. We get so bowled over by the "look" of it, that we forget to examine it critically enough.

Talk about your viral strategy, indeed...

Today, in the age of the cell phone, the Lexus, Viagra, the twenty five cent phone call, and a PC "in every barn," wherever I look, I see the poor apostrophe maligned and misused. It gets no respect, either offline on signs, billboards, and late-night Infomercials, or (shudder) online in cyber country, on that very personal and intimate expression of its owner's taste and personality: an individual's web site.

Since I spend so much time online, much more, I think, than I spend on the real pavement of our world, I notice the glaring mistreatment heaped upon our poor little fellow- the apostrophe-by careless webmasters, even more. The main thing I notice is that the apostrophe's originally intended use is slowly eroding; people are just making up their own versions of what its purpose really is. This is a prime example of what I mean by "casual disdain."

It's been reported in 'The Really Up Yonder Gazette', an influential publication dedicated to digging up gossip about the well known dearly departed, that both William Shakespeare and John Milton have thrown up their arms in despair, and are contemplating turning their backs for good on something that some would consider their own creation: our English language.

As a matter of fact, in a recent exclusive interview, "Willie boy" himself bemoans the effect all of this is having on his favorite language, as follows:

"Oh, perfidy that has befallen our instrument of expression, by us once nearly refined. Oh, treachery flung upon us by the masses shamelessly disdainful of reading and writing, of independent thought evidently incapable!"


Frankly, I firmly believe that this unwarranted offense was perpetrated by one of the first guys, if not the very first, who threw up that first Web site selling, say, floppy disks with instructions on how to extend the mileage on single-ply bathroom tissue by rewashing it, carefully drying it with your wife's hair dryer (when she'd gone out of the house, natch), and then gingerly covering it with a special jelly for sofness. You know, just your average 3-Step Recycling Process used mainly in Third World countries like Wyoming, for instance...

For the purposes of this little tale, let's call this first marketer, Butcher D. Grammer.

Well, this confounded fellow started something which has become a movement, or a new language convention. Butcher decided that the little fellow, my friend the apostrophe, should not be used according to any rules or previous language conventions; heck no, the little fellow would, according to our Bathroom Recycle Consultant, be used any ol'time.

He would use it, and so would the masses who were yet to come, but who would follow suit, and our Butcher knew this well, to interchangeably indicate either the possessive or the plural forms in any sentence.

So, a sentence such as, "The seller does not guarantee its potential profit," became: "The seller does not guarantee it's potential profit."

Here he turned the possessive form of "its" into the abbreviated, or the contraction form of, it is. So, if you were to read the second sentence, removing the contraction, the last part would read: "does not guarantee it is potential."

But, our little Butcher, a thorough and disciplined craftsman, was not through yet. After all, there was even more damage he could inflict on American English; and, leeringly, he mused, rubbing his hands together, "They'll follow me blindly anywhere."

Next, he turned his attention to the plural form of simple words. Just about any word ending in "s," indicating that there was more than one object of whatever unit was being counted or measured, he turned into, you guessed it, the possessive form.

Words or terms such as, buyers, software tools, ingrown toe nails, battering ramps, fools, attractive girls, dumb-as-can-be-guys, and many, many others, became: buyer's, software tool's, ingrown toe nail's, battering ramp's, fool's, attractive girl's, dumb-as-can-be-guy's.

As hard to believe as it may seem, Butcher reign of terror is still not only alive and well, but from what I'm going to show you, it's expanding frighteningly. Please have a look at the following three additional examples, and cringe in terror:

1. If your interested, just sign up from the link below.

2. Just click here, and your done.

3. Simply load email address's into your auto-responder.

Obviously, in the first two sentences, Butcher and his followers have cleverly used the second-person possessive pronoun "your" as a substitute for the abbreviated "you're." Their thinking being, "The heck with that comma-like thing which is supposed to go on top. Nobody will even miss it. And, we can get away with chopping off the last "e", also." (So, once again, the apostrophe gets the shaft).

As regards the third sentence shown above, quite frankly, I have no comment; I wouldn't even know where to begin defining or deciphering it...I'm afraid to look at it. It's just a stroke of genius from the hand of our hero, Butcher, who must have found the inspiration for this little morcel during a wrenching psychotic episode.

Now, I don't know how other people feel about the sinister, pervasive, and, yes, viral damage caused by this one crazy guy, but I, for one, hope he has gone to his final resting place. Let him drive them crazy over there if (God forbid) he finds himself near a typewriter; as it is, Butcher's handiwork makes me go nuts practically every day here in cyber space.

If only we could go back to that time in the past, 1962 comes readily to mind for one reason or another, when spelling and a little attention to grammar counted for something.

But, as they say, in Bolivia, "Dude, t'ain't no use complainin', 'dem 'dere day's is long gone."

Copyright 2004 Jorge M Vega

About The Author

After struggling for years trying to figure out what worked and what didn't work online, the author, Jorge M. Vega, has started to "bring home the bacon" marketing on the Internet. Quietly, he has found a few select, sure-fire ways that anyone can use to begin making a comfortable home-based living, starting today:

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