Friday, February 15, 2013

English In A Post Modern World

When we heard Sir Ken Robinson speak recently at the Distinguished Speaker Series he made a rather wry observation. He noted that MicroSoft Word was dumbing down the language. It always suggested that you had to have a "positive" or upbeat manner. If you were to run some of the most beloved books of all times through it, the suggestions and comments would possibly bring tears to your eyes and give us a language fitting for what, Huxleys 1984? Or, what we hear just about every night on TV.

Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert" has also made observations about language, especially what our new "smartphones" do with language. The cartoon below, one that brought tears of laughter to my eyes, just about sums it up. I noticed on Pinterest yesterday a phone shot of a message obviously from a man to his girl that just about broke up that relationship when autocorrect took over. If you are on Pinterest check out the Mashable Web humor. Its priceless.

Or check this out:

What we need to be aware of though is that these features, like anything else in our lives, have been designed. And like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, things often don't work out as we planned.

I don't believe that anyone with a smart phone hasn't had an embarrassing moment. You type and send and only after a reply is made do we realize what we thought we said and what WAS said are often very different; maybe even revealing.

While just about everyone on the planet uses MS Word, haven't you ever noticed the wavy lines that then suggest another way of saying something? I don't know about you, but usually what I wrote is EXACTLY (yes I'm shouting) what I meant. I don't a need or want a computer to correct what I intended to say and how I said it.

Ironically I am learning from my wife about the new CORE standards that the Department of Education is rolling out for all school districts to follow across the nation. What is of critical interest, and it will start in kindergarden, is how it now wants students to ask critical questions about what they read. No longer are they to just parrot what they read, but to question what they read and try to understand what the author meant. Its about time. That is how I was taught over 50 years ago. I'd say, Word better get on the bandwagon as well. Just like there is happiness in the world, there is also a great deal of sadness. Pick up the paper, read the news on the web, watch the news on TVand no matter how you cut it, death and destruction are just about everywhere. Unless you are very sick, there is no way to put an upbeat spin on that. "To be or not to be, that IS the question!"

We can design things any way we want. Maybe its time for design to be realistic!

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