For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always been compulsively articulate. As a kid in Queens and Suffolk County I was inevitably the undisputed spelling champion of both counties. My parents were both from northeastern Pennsylvania, and I was raised in New York, having lived here since I was around three and a half years old, so my very earliest memories are of their having been such a drastic distinction between the two accents, and of all the colloquial words and phrases that distinguish them from each other. Things weren’t so defiantly obvious in Lindenhurst but all throughout the time I lived in Jackson Heights I was overwhelmed by accents from Brooklyn, the Bronx and other parts of New York City. Besides that, a third of the people in my neighborhood were Italians who only spoke Italian, and Hispanics who only spoke Spanish. Having always been inordinately smitten with all the distinctive twists and turns that exist in language anyway, somewhere over the course of my very young days I embarked on what would become a lifelong determination to be exceptionally articulate. I’ve always been the Felix Unger of the spoken and written word, what many would refer to as a grammar Nazi. In the eleventh grade at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, I did an oral report about the Beatles one day in my English class. My teacher, Sister Mary Hostetter, O.P., reminded me of my mistakenly having said that something happened between, instead of among, the four of them. To this very day I still cringe when I think of it. I’ve always been quite a compulsive bookworm too so that helps me keep up my familiarity with language, and it also helps drastically to improve my vocabulary. By now everyone knows quite well that nothing nauseates my like liberalism. One of the many reasons for my contempt of the entire concept is the fact that its proponents presume to take for granted some supposed right to take charge of how our language is to be spoken. Language is supposed only to be used as a vehicle for the transmission of the truth and not as a means of manipulating people’s perception of things and ideas. Supplanting nouns with adjectives (as in “male” and “female” instead of “man” and “woman”), and replacing certain words with others that are entirely irrelevant to them ( rejecting “problems”, “handicaps” and “arguments” in favor of “issues” and “challenges”) only serves to distort people’s perception of things. They claim that groups such as blacks, Hispanics and Indians supposedly have a right to be referred to as African, Latin and Native Americans, although no such right can possibly exist. A right, by definition, is something that is unavoidably necessary for the sake of survival either as an individual or a member of a group. Language, in its legitimate form, has all kinds of exceptionally interesting properties. Imagery and influence can come from anywhere including the mechanical world, the sciences, religion and politics. People’s names can even become words. Examples of these range from Spoonerism to Machiavellian. Pop cultural references also find their way into people’s speech patterns. The first appearance of the word “Nerd” was in Dr. Seuss’
“If I Ran the Zoo”, as the name of a character in 1950. It was then brought back into prominence by the television show, “Happy Days”, in the 1970’s, as a synonym for “square”. Over the course of the past several years it has gotten a lot of mileage as someone who is exceptionally good at math and the hard sciences. Language is an exceptionally important and interesting concept and it’s unavoidably necessary to apply conscientiously all the rules that are required to speak and to write it well. Similarly to music or any other field of endeavor, there must be a legitimate balance between creativity and strict discipline. For me it’s always been so exceptionally enjoyable and interesting, as well as quite a major priority. I realize that it’s also yet another part of my life in which I tend to qualify as quite the neurotic but that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. It keeps me from becoming stale and ordinary.