I just used the word “behoove” in a conversation. And no I wasn’t transported back to Victorian England. But it was an apropos use, for that apropos moment.
What I realized, as soon as I stepped away from the discourse, is simply how prose changes over time, and how that is a reflection on society. The interesting thing is that historically when persons were less educated and less inclined to even be able to read and write, those who were considered educated used language as if it were a gift. Something to be cherished, to be understood, and to be considered a treat of the senses.
Language was the epitome of sophistication. It was the way to show your fellows your intellect. It was the way in which society knew into which strata you belonged. It was the way in which you made your fortune, your name, and your reputation.
Sadly the use of words are not that important in today’s day and age. Oh the meaning of words is important, but the words themselves are immaterial in a way not experienced before in modern society. It is almost seen as a sign of elitism to actually avail oneself of an exemplary form of exposition.
In this vein of reasoning, for some ill conceived notion, educators have decided that it is destructive to a child’s self esteem to point out spelling errors in the younger grades. Teachers allow for any number of errors without any thought of correction. How this is supposed to teach a love of language is unknown. The idea that a child does not learn the proper way to spell is directly in contravention to the idea of language. It is the same with not learning a letter’s sound, or the ridiculous notion that children do not need to learn their multiplication tables, or cursive writing.
Beyond the acknowledged handwriting-brain connection, the idea that it is anathema to compel a student to learn by rote is defeatist and ill thought out. Everything in life is not a game. Sometimes a person truly needs to be able to stick to an idea, or a program, in order to be successful. Rote exercises, in and of themselves, are a wonderful educational tool for the brain. Completion of a task and being able to then use the fulfillment of that task to advance to the next level of education is a worthy goal.
Society excoriates millenials with the snowflake effect. But who turned them into such delicate creatures unable to function in society? Education did that. Today’s learners are considered too delicate in their dispositions to be able to handle the requirements of their forbearers. Somehow now that we have moved into an age where society has more free time, and more ability to pursue learning and triumph in their educational excesses, we have decided that facts no longer exist and to force facts, such as the multiplication tables and properly spelled words upon children, will render them catatonic. And we wonder why the concept of alternative facts, fake news, and post truth can take hold.
Along this vein of condescension and idiocy, it is felt that to employ language that requires your readers to delve into a dictionary is considered rude and crude. It is not done. The writer is to be plain spoken, without flourish, and with a mind to the average individual. Publishers continually seek writers who are able to put into “plain language” laws, science, and other higher thinking concepts. Ironically, the idea that persons are incapable of a more educated take on language actually strikes as rather elitist in and of itself.
This degradation of language can be witnessed as the reality of our existence in such that we have condensed every aspect of our lives into text messages. Moreover, that being too time consuming, or thought provoking, the culture has even birthed emojis. No one need understand, nor are we expected to know, how to use language to its fullest. Descriptive and emotive language has been delegated to the ash heaps. People are simply to click on a happy face, a rainbow, or a picture of any kind, and off goes the message.
Now true, a picture is worth a thousand words. But it is worth more to have the talent to describe the picture, and place it forever in the imagination of the reader or listener. For one of the greatest gifts of words, is that human beings employ their own inspiration. For out of the notions of ingenuity spring forth ideas, thoughts, and creativity, not just art, but thought and principle as well.
From thought and principle came questions about humanity’s place in the world, a questioning of authority, and a desire of liberty, equality, and freedom. For words, not war, are the midwife of revolution. Societies are changed and shaken by ideas. That is why to control how persons think and how they perceive the notion of ideas is to control society itself. For ideas are dangerous things, and they are only birthed out of the imagination of persons given leave to think, question, and ultimately the right to rebel.
Language is the well spring of humanity. It is a gift that we have been given that has shaped our destiny. To have so debauched it to the point that we remove from language its grace, is to deny to humanity a discussion of the future, and to relegate ourselves to the poverty of societal decay.
Ultimately, when I so unthinkingly used the word “behoove” this morning, I realized that I was not being a snob, an elitist, or a pompous ass. But I was harkening back to a time when words taught us how to think for ourselves. I was harkening back to a time of inventiveness, forward-thinking, and rebellion.