Why are we killing our language?

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Apr 2018 10:00:56





THIS may be the umpteenth time when ‘Loud Thinking’ has brought up this subject -- of how we are killing our language. Please mark the usage. I am not saying ‘languages’. I am insisting upon ‘language’. So, the question is: Why are well killing our language?

Time has already come for us to answer this question thoughtfully. Time has also come for us first to admit that we are not just ignoring our language, but also intent upon killing it. Then comes the issue of finding a credible method to restore an appropriate status to our language, our ability to express in fine words. Because our expression is fast losing its finesse, the concern has come up.

Of course, one culprit is the new lingo that has started trampling our traditional finesse in expression -- the lingo of SMS and looseness of usage of words on social media. The whole society seems to agree that when one writes an SMS, one need not be bothered about correctness of spellings or grammar and that one can take every liberty with those. This is the dirtiest way to kill our language. For, what makes language fine is our basic respect for words and their various shades of meaning. Using correct words in their most appropriate nuances is what makes language rich. But it is one area that is ignored in the SMS communication on a shockingly vast scale.

But even as we blame the new SMS lingo for the decline in the standard of our expression, we must not lose sight of another reality that we have been ignoring - fine expression in our homes as well as in our schools and later in colleges. We cannot escape the reality that as a society, we are running away from using fine words even in our day-to-day communication. So casual are we becoming in this regard that we don’t bother if we have really used the correct word. We make such a mess of meaning by using wrong words that a person of my generation feels utterly shocked.
The argument is simple: Look, haven’t you understood what I wish to say? If yes, my purpose is served. (Let me also insist that in most cases, we never use the expression ‘purpose is served’. Mostly, we say, ‘purpose is solved’!).

This, of course, is not just a stupid argument, which everybody realises, but also an arrogant one. Yet, habitually, we keep hearing such arguments time and again by those who have no respect for fine or even correct expression. And, to repeat the point, I insist that in our homes and schools and colleges, we have stopped insisting upon correct language.

Here, let me offer a little explanation about ‘language’. This word does not denote a specific language like English, Sanskrit, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarathi ...! It denotes the way we speak, the way we select words, the way we add emotion to our expression, the way we add the element of thoughtfulness to whatever we wish to say.
There is a Sanskrit verse that talks of special attributes of the ‘language’ of four ancient Sanskrit playwrights -- Mahakavi Kalidasa, Mahakavi Bharavi, Mahakavi Dandi, and Mahakavi Magh. That verse explains that Kalidasa excelled in figure of speech ‘simile’ - Upama (Upama Kalidasasya); Bharavi excelled in richness of usage (Bharavehe arthagauram); Dandi excelled in expression full of classic lilt (Dandinaam padalalityam); and Magh excelled in all the three attributes -- simile, richness of usage, and classic lilt (Maghe santi trayogunaha).

This verse is classic, though written by one of the admirers of Mahakavi Magh. Let alone a little exaggeration in favour of Mahakavi Magh, the verse does talk of major attributes of ‘language’. My grief is that in our pursuit of so-called capable communication, we make ugly compromises with ‘language’ and allow our expressions to become base.
This is not to expect everybody to be a poet, but this is to expect our society to nurse fine expression as part of our culture.

Why are we not doing that? Why are we ignoring the rich feel of fine expression? Why are we living lives bereft of beautiful language?
These are a few simple questions that trouble a layman like me.