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Modern miscommunication

November 6th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Mark Vuong

Math. Science. Math. Science. Two things that America cares about and puts lots of resources toward. Where’d English go? I think it’s safe to say that everyone, or at least many people, know that English isn’t as emphasized as it used to be in high schools. Language used to be liked, loved. Nowadays, it’s put on the sidelines, neglected. (Side note: Funny how President Obama has been ridiculed because of his correctness in speech. Sad, too.)

An argument for the weeding out of grammar in school curriculum is that language is ever-changing. What’s the point of learning something that constantly changes?

I can think of a couple reasons: coherent and effective communication.

It is true that language constantly changes (always verbing nouns, nouning verbs, adjectiving verbs, so on and so forth), but that doesn’t negate the fact that an informed rule-break is more likely to yield better results than an ignorant one. (Can anyone tell me where sick as slang came from? ‘Cause, honestly, that word makes me sick to my stomach.)

Another major—important—reason to learn grammar is because we live in the 21st century, where social media networks bombard and rule many of our lives. These places are laden with erroneous grammar. I understand IM-ing, texting, Tweeting, and all other such media have their own language, but IMO, it’s the young minds we should be worried about. Young minds that have yet to learn how to use commas, semicolons, colons properly; that haven’t learned what a run-on sentence is. These are the people who will occupy important seats within the world in later years, who will take over prestigious chairs when their preceding generation keels over.

How will a country keep good relations with other countries when it cannot communicate effectively? How will a company run smoothly without clear and understandable memos?

Now, let’s get down to examples, real-life examples.

Wheat Thins commercial: Camera watches yellow van with blue big letters spelling “The Crunch is Calling.” Off to the side, in smaller, more artistic letters, Wheat Thins. Someone is reading from a Twitter message: “Does anyone have to turn up the volume when they eat Wheat Thins? Someone needs to invent crunch-proof headphones.”

Camera shows Tweet. “He will be surprised,” says the Wheat Thins rep.

Camera is outside of a house. Many people wearing yellow shirt bearing, The Crunch is Calling populate the sidewalk.

The Wheat Thins rep wears a duller yellow, with no words, no picture. Just dull yellow. He presents crunch-proof headphones to TimmyParker, the Tweeter.

With the headphones on Timmy, the representative holds a megaphone and bites a Wheat Thin, twice. The crunch is amplified. Timmy shakes head; he can’t hear anything.

“It’s a success,” says the representative.

The Wheat Thins crew packs up and leaves.

Sure, the crunch-proof headphones were a success, but the communication wasn’t. Either TimmyParker was too timid to point out that that wasn’t what he meant or this entire commercial was set up. Probably the latter.

Good job, WT. A job done well, except the communication part.

Wisk commercial: Narrator: “Finally, there is a new choice in high-performance detergent.”

Rows upon rows of red bottles blur past the screen, eventually stopping.

“Introducing Wisk with stain spectrum technology.”

A single bottle stands. Hexagons with letterings of stains float around it.

“Try new Wisk. We upgraded the formula but not the price.”

Does the tagline make you do a double-take? It does me. (Cue Tim Allen: huuurrh?!) I never knew that a hike in price was considered an improvement. Consequently, following this logic, a decrease in price means a downgrade. Interesting way to describe pricing.

However, after dictionarying “upgrade”, I found out that the word can also mean increase or rise. The way the word was used is sort of jargonic, wouldn’t you say? And we all know jargonic terms, like an inside joke, tend to leave out many people, leaving them clueless.

Flawed communication in this commercial.

This is where studying grammar—better yet, language—comes in. Such a folly wouldn’t’ve occurred had a knowledgeable person of language, such as a competent editor, been employed within the ranks of the team that created the commercial.

To be truthful, I’m scared of what the world holds for the future of the written language. But what can a loose prescriptivist do?

i guess well all b righting like ths 1 day Gulp


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