Actually, from a sociolinguistic standpoint, usage determines meaning, a much recited mantra in the field. In some sense, the concept of formal literacy is purely a social convention of the 20th century. For instance, spellings weren’t standardized until the advent of the dictionary (we know the accents of many historical figures by their taste in vowels). Concepts like double negative were invented by grammarians who were trying to invent formal systems for uncovering the laws that govern speaking. And slang words are only slang because they aren’t yet spoken by the upper eschelons of society (though in time many will be). What is accepted speech in one age is reviled in another, language evolves in time. And particularly, language is coded differently by different subcultures of people. This is called code switching. Teenagers do it a lot; it’s a way for them to define the boundaries of their peer groups. If you can’t talk the talk… Your kid is being teased because they’re not adopting implicitly agreed upon conventions for conversing with his peers in text. What is considered proper speech by the majority of speakers in the larger community is actually determined by people’s tendency to naturally emulate the speaking codes of the most affluent speakers in a community. So in a sense, what is proper and grammatical is arbitrary as it is contingent upon the various and random historical social circumstances that lead up to the present moment. In fact, while your child is adhering to a strict litteracy by trying to maintain an adult sense of proper and sensible speech, he is neglecting to be an upstanding and litterate member of the discourse community forged by his peers, which objectively speaking, has no less or more a claim to legitmacy than the queen’s english.
“The first picture posted on BigGovernment.com shows Weiner holding a piece of paper with the word “me” written on it, and an arrow pointing to his face. According to the website, Weiner sent the photo in order to prove to the woman that he it was in fact the person corresponding with her online.”—HuffPo, covering a congressman sending some scandalous photos. Anthony Weiner, this was not a very intelligent string of decisions.
I will not remember today for Osama’s death. I will remember it for the way I felt watching the videos of my countrymen celebrating in the streets of New York and Washington. I don’t recognize them, these people waving flags, singing, and pouring their jubilation into the night because we killed someone. And what about all the others that have been killed? During 10 years we spent unbelievable amounts of blood and treasure, enacted unthinkable civil liberties legislation, and turned ourselves into brutes for this.
And there we were out on the streets. Brutes. We have become brutes.
Yes, the world is a better place without Osama bin Laden. But I fear what this has brought out in us. The structural factors that create Osama bin Ladens still exist, and unless we work to change those, we will continue to undermine ourselves by giving our attention to tomorrow’s straw man.