Thursday, December 21, 2006

Words under threat of extinction

21st December 2006
A severely homesick Harendra Alwis (who is also mildly depressed about not being able to come home for Christmas) reports from his little corner of the world in Melbourne, Australia

Semantics Task Force (STF) inspectors of the Department of Words in the Ministry of Communication have discovered millions of cases where certain words are being misused and abused. In a series of raids carried out worldwide, the ministry says it has collected alarming evidence of the deterioration of language, right out of the lips of offenders. Senior analysts at the department say that this is a very dangerous threat to communication that requires serious attention on a global scale.
In an effort to educate the public about the misuse of words, the ministry has released two comprehensive reports; one listing expired words that are being cheaply recycled and used with distressing frequency and the other containing a list or words that are under severe threat of loosing their meaning.
The first list include words such as 'like', 'whatever', 'love', 'so' (alternatively spelt 'sooo') and also phrases such as 'shut up'. Investigators who managed to successfully infiltrate a group of school girls in a bus, found statistical evidence which suggest that teenage girls are the most common offenders of this mass abuse of words. However, 'gangsta rappers' and their brain-dead followers and nincompoops who don't read are also among those who have been held responsible for this severe degradation of semantics.
Four letter words such as 'shit' were found to be abused mostly for swearing. However, evidence suggests that illiterate thugs and idiots whose command of language is limited to a few hundred words are using these words to convey their narrow spectrum of thoughts and ideas. The findings suggest the possibility that, these words have evolved into super-expressive tools of communication for their users, as such words offer versatility in the use of language for people with a limited vocabulary.
The second report covers more serious issues that may even effect our perception of what it means to me human. Investigators have found instances where politicians and even religious leaders had misinterpreted words as fundamental as 'war', 'peace', 'freedom', 'God', 'good', 'bad' and 'justice'; arbitrarily choosing their meanings to manipulate public support for unjust causes and to promote their personal agendas.
While acknowledging that at least some of these changes could be considered to be part of the necessary natural evolution of language, the investigation also shed light on the fact that words such as 'love' and 'respect' have all but lost their meaning. Previous studies have proven that human thoughts and feelings are shaped by words and their semantics. The range of human emotions and sentiments are limited to the availability of words that can represent them and convey their meaning. Therefore, if this process of abuse is allowed to continue, humanity may soon loose its ability to experience even the most profound of all emotions and sentiments.
Commentators on the subject argue that the loss of emotions and positive sentiments is already taking place causing dire consequences. They point out the increase of domestic violence and divorce rates and the decrease of goodwill and cooperation among individuals, groups and most notably among nations as a direct result of the degradation of words and the meanings.
In its final analysis, the report suggests the invention of new words as a possible solution among others such as making it compulsory for people to read old books and legally enforcing the dictionary definition of words that have been identified to be under threat. Experts point out that the latter will cause more harm than it aims to prevent, by limiting the creative use of words. They also warn that such moves could even be a threat to sarcasm and humor; the cornerstones of entertainment and laughter. In reply, the ministry emphasized that the contents of the reports are open for public debate, iterating the need to find creative solutions to the problems they aim to highlight.

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