Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

Then it was newspapers, now it's Twitter

From The American Language, on how newspaper writing and design has shaped language use:

'The headline,' said the late E. P. Mitchell, for many years editor of the New York Sun, 'is more influential than a hundred chairs of rhetoric in the shaping of future English speech. There is no livelier perception than in the newspaper offices of the incalculable havoc being wreaked upon the language by the absurd circumstance that only so many millimeters of type can go into so many millimeters' width of column. Try it yourself and you will understand why the fraudulent use of so many compact but misused verbs, nouns and adjectives is being imposed on the coming generation. In its worst aspect, headline English is the yellow peril of the language.' 'This,' says G. K. Chesterton, 'is one of the evils produced by that passion for compression and compact information which possesses so many ingenious minds in America. Everybody can see how an entirely new system of grammar, syntax, and even language has been invented to fit the brevity of headlines. Such brevity, so far from being the soul of wit, is even the death of meaning; and certainly the death of logic.'

Fun game: substitute "Twitter" for "headline" -- you can see how their arguments would extend into our millennium. What will be the next technology to drag our language through the gutter?!