Change is the only constant.
Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher who lived around 2500 years ago. He was known for his thoughts on continual change as the fundamental essence of the universe. Probably his most famous statement was “Change is the only constant in life.”
The idea of constant change in life and nature applies to the way we communicate too. Our language continually adjusts. We invent new words. Other words fade away. Meanings of words change.
Customs and formalities evolve, and the language we use changes to reflect those shifting values and expectations.
For example, few people today greet each other with the once common phrase how do you do? except in the most formal settings. Instead, we say hi, and how ya doin’?, and how’s it goin’?
Technology influences the pace and methods of communication too. The invention and rapid adoption of the telephone ended the 19th-century etiquette that you don’t speak to someone unless you’ve been introduced.
Even email appears to be following the demise of the fax machine. Mobile phones are replacing it. And mobile technology has made text shorthand a common, and often preferred, part of writing. It’s creeping into newspapers, magazines, blogs, and classrooms. 😖
These changes in language and technology disrupt the system.
There was a heated debate on Facebook the other day about the importance of teaching children how to write in cursive. That evolution in handwriting was developed in the 1800s to make handwriting faster. And Spenserian script can be beautiful. But today, it’s not a relevant skill. In the same way knowing how to cut a feather to make a quill pen is a quaint talent, but it’s not useful.
I’m not suggesting text-influenced writing is better. But it is here, and it is replacing older systems.
In fact, high school students are beginning to use text shorthand in their school assignments.
This seems wrong for many people.
One difficulty with this kind of change is our ability to adapt to it. There’s a clumsy transition as we try to understand what is right and acceptable. Those judgements are based on the standards we learned in grade school, or what style guide our company enforces.
But although words, usage, technology, and customs change, one goal remains constant: Our need to communicate clearly.
While text shorthand is standard lexicon among teens, it is not an effective way to communicate with a wider audience.
Change is inevitable, and it can be good. But as we accept the natural evolution of our language, let us be aware and adapt our language to fit our audience.
There are a million words in English available to you. All free! I encourage you to use those words with intention. And above all, strive to be clear.
That tradition must never change.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river
and he’s not the same man.”
Things we like.
If Alexander Graham Bell had his druthers, we’d be saying ahoy! when answering a telephone. But Thomas Edison voted for hello, a word he invented for the purpose. Read all about it here.
Things to ponder.
Great Horn Spoon! and other minced oaths from years past.