I think we should re-institute the word whence. Isn’t I don’t know whence this comes so much more elegant than I don’t know where this comes from? Actually, let’s go whole hog: isn’t I know not whence this comes much nicer than I don’t know where this comes from? When did English decide that stating something in the negative requires the addition of the verb to do?
Spoken like someone who reads a lot of old stuff. I also think we should bring back shall. What other word has a meaning so delicately poised between should and will?
Should I do this? Shall I do this? Will I do this?
Not to mention, I freaking love shan’t.
Okay, okay, since so much of what I write on this blog makes me sound like I was born during the Jackson administration, I will also share some of the movements I like in modern American English. I love the word dude. For my first dozen or so years in California, I manfully resisted this word. I had the same moral objection to it as to the unchecked proliferation of the word like (which I still, like, don’t like, but like, live with). Then one day I completely surrendered to dude, because it can be so expressive, and has so many applications. For instance, witness this clip:
Isn’t dude awesome? (NB at some point I also surrendered to the word awesome.)
I also like when offensive words with nasty histories are re-appropriated. Bitch used to mean “recalcitrant woman,” but now it rather means “whiny person.” It’s being de-gendered, and I think that’s a good thing. It always gives me a little subversive thrill to say that a man is being a bitch. I also approve of what’s by and large happened to the word nigger, that it’s used as a form of address within the black community. I’m a little puzzled by white people who complain they can’t use it–I mean, why would they want to? Coming from a white person, this is a word of exclusion. The whole point of its re-appropriation is turning it into a word of inclusion; that’s why it’s supposed to stay within the black community. Of course, inclusion implies exclusion of someone else–I suppose that’s why it being a black word bothers some whites (this is the nicer interpretation, the less nice interpretation being that it signifies the lessening of their power as the privileged race). But shit, when we live in a society where no one is being systematically oppressed because of how much melanin they have in their skin, then we can open up the use of that word. Then we would see that that word, in a truly all-inclusive society, would be of no interest to anyone. It would be as obsolete as the word reprobate in the Calvinist sense. Would it turn into something like what reprobate means now?
No, I think it would do what is best. I think it would simply and quietly disappear.