We have ways of saying things that weren’t used or recognized in our school books and aren’t necessarily approved in any manual on proper expression. However, if you will notice, you will see that those expressions are usually very effective in getting our thoughts across. In a manner of speaking, where “the rubber meets the road”, those expressions have traction. Lots of traction. They get the job done.
More than a figure of speech, some of those expressions are more lengthy, but serve to put prior narration into perspective. Take, for example, our local great writer, Darrell Huckaby, and one of his favorite conventions after a rather lengthy preamble is, “I told you all that to tell you this.” He then gets to the primary nut of his story. Some take a much more commonly used convention, “or so to speak”, meaning the speaker has used an allegorical comparison, speaking figuratively rather than with literal accuracy.
There are a few that aren’t necessarily newly minted expressions which we could do without. They are used much more commonly today than formerly. I mean, you know, uh, it’s just that, I mean, some people, you know, take a long time getting to the kernel of the nut with those expressions. Often there is no kernel and never was. “You know” seems to be the most commonly used of these garbage words.
I recall a Georgia transportation engineer who surprised me by stating that in planning roadways, especially intersections and approaches to them, motorists usually make their own approach. They run over unpaved surfaces and across walkways. So, when redesigning the intersection, he said, you might as well redesign it using the path the motorists have made because that is the way they are going to go, regardless of how you design it otherwise.
I use this poor analogy to say that word usage is similar. Words that are not considered to be at all proper, perhaps even “cuss” words or vulgarisms, become commonly heard. And after that happens they are accepted as vulgar language, then vernacular, then acceptable words and expressions.
Some will recall how shocking it was when Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind” said unabashedly, “I don’t give a damn.” Nowadays, you might not be terribly shocked to hear that from the pulpit. That is unfortunate. It results in the bastardization of our language, making it probably the most evolutionary language on earth.
Decades ago an artificial language was devised which was intended to be a language to facilitate the United Nations, in that it was a sort of a composite of a number of languages. The intent was that it could be learned by more people more quickly. It would be a sort of linguistic “no-man’s land”. Apparently nobody much cared for that language. It was Esperanto, and you can still find an Esperanto Association and take lessons in it. But what the heck; I mean, you know.
As our former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, recently said, “What difference does it make?” We refer here to the English language, as modified by Americans, which is not exactly “the King’s English”. At the rate we are going, our brand of English will bear little resemblance in a few decades to the language we speak today, to say nothing of the way it was spoken a few decades ago.
This is not necessarily all bad. Nor is it necessarily good. It is a mix. It makes wandering through the language an eternal adventure. It is a sort of code language. Only young Americans have the key. A problem with that is that old folks are automatically shut out, as they don’t know the current code. As fast as they learn it, that new expression is already obsolete and there is a replacement already in use. This is sort of frustrating to old-timers, resulting in them keeping their mouth shut in the presence of young folk and tending to speak only amongst themselves.
But, so what? I mean, what difference does it make now, you know? The “King’s English” long ago galloped away into the sunset, never to return.
Strangely, English, with all its warts and bumps, has become the language that does what Esperanto was intended to do. And even more strangely, it is the modern bastardized evolving form of English that has inherited that role. Who would have thunk it?