The Compulsive Copyeditor

June 17, 2018

English is a Mac

Filed under: Uncategorized — amba12 @ 10:10 am

I was having a conversation with a friend who appreciates grammatical precision and finesse. We both feel the skeleton of grammar, its articulation of meaning, under the flesh of expression, and feel pain when it is broken or dislocated.

She’s a little older than me and it turns out that in junior high and high school she studied Latin for eight or nine years!! That was the last gasp of a world in which everyone who learned had to learn Latin — and I don’t doubt that it clarified their thinking. It made me think about how much I learned about the hidden grammar of English by learning German, an explicitly inflected and declined language (and a bit of Russian, which has 6 noun cases and 2 verb . . . voices?? I get grammar viscerally but I still don’t know the terminology). English has all that machinery of meaning too, it’s just submerged.

Which made me think that English just has an easier, simpler user interface — like a Mac in a world of PCs. All the complex programming is still there, but the user doesn’t have to engage with it.

Whether a Mac, like English, is therefore easier to abuse, and whether English, like a Mac, is somehow more expensive may be taking the metaphor too far.

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