Language as a Blunt Tool of the Digital Age

Francis Hult francis.hult at
Sat Jan 16 13:35:15 UTC 2010

New York Times


Language as a Blunt Tool of the Digital Age


We are all linguistic utilitarians now. At work and home, in person and on our devices, function rules and form pales. Capitalization, commas, full sentences, the writing of words without numbers in them, the avoidance of jargon and mixed metaphors - these norms are suffering, unable to persuade multitaskers of their worth.


Of course, anxiety about language is very old. When technologies turn, when new social groups rise, when politics change, critics predict the end of literacy. George Orwell, in a seminal essay in 1946, warned that pretentious diction and meaningless words and other bad habits were corroding politics. He criticized the belief "that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light."


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