I was thinking about aimless last night as I stood at the sink doing the washing up. Not because doing the washing up is aimless when you consider I don’t have a dishwasher (one plate per day, one set of cutlery, one mug, one glass, one teaspoon – a dishwasher?) but because I’d just checked on yesterday’s word, which shows up here when the day is pretty much done.
Anyway, I was thinking about aimless, and what I thought was that it’s one of those words that doesn’t have its own antonym: aimful, for example. Or aimple. Which didn’t get me very far in the serious business of thinking up something D&M to say about it, but it did start me thinking about words in general – a well-worn pathway in my brain, and there’s more washing up when you have house guests. (Most nights my daughter does it.)
Now I know I’m old. I know that youth has always tended to equate age with senility. I know that modern society sees us as a waste of money and not a source of accrued wisdom. And I also know that language must constantly evolve to stay alive. But bugger me! There’s a big difference between evolving and disintegrating.
I’ve pretty much given up on different from, discretion being the better part of valour. Different to and different than are so widely used now that I can’t win – even though no one says differ to or differ than, but who am I to argue?
Acclimate, though – what on earth’s that about? Are we sick of acclimatise? Or was someone too stupid to think of the right word and too lazy to look it up, and other people went along with it for fear of being left behind in the rush to be trendy? Trendy my…whatever! Acclimate is an ugly word that sounds what it is: rubbish.
And then we get to parse. The current use of parse twists something vital deep in my gut. It’s as if someone stumbled upon it, thought empty shell ripe for reuse and threw it out there to make themselves look super-intellectual. And the real tragedy is that only dinosaurs like me will appreciate the depth of their stupidity. Because parse does NOT mean analyse, define, explain, lay out or any of the other things it’s been lassoed to stand in for.
Parse means ‘to describe a word or series of words grammatically, identifying parts of speech, syntactic relationships etc.’ And if, like me, you’d been taught to parse in your youth, you’d know that it’s an exact science that has nothing to do with implications or deeper meaning as claimed by the second definition in Dictionary.com.
You’d also know that parsing in its true sense has a lot going for it. It’s much easier to learn another language if you understand parts of speech and their grammatical relationships in your own. But even more importantly – if some idiot hadn’t decided that parsing was too taxing for tiny minds, the English language wouldn’t have degenerated into the grammatical pigs’ breakfast it is today. And maybe – just maybe – we’d have enough respect for it to differentiate between progress and linguistic corruption.