dumbing down

Language rant: I agree professor, in the end we are all just a bag of rotting flesh. However, if someone calls me an elitist or intellectual snob, I thank them. In case you haven’t noticed America is rapidly declining in culture, morality and intellect. Remember: you read it here first! The US ranks 49th in literacy of the 158 members of the UN. A rough estimate is that 60% of American adults have never (yes never) read a book of any kind and only 6% reads as much as one book a year – book can be anything – romance novel, self help, etc. Jay Leno asked questions, a series of eight actually, to students after a college graduation ceremony (college gratefully un-named). One of the questions was “How many moons does the earth have?” One woman said that she had taken an astronomy course a couple of years back but couldn’t remember the answer. “What was the Gettysburg Address”? one student: an address to Getty; another: I don’t know the exact address. I find this all unbelievable. 6% of adults went to the theater at least once so far; 3% to the opera (no surprise there). It goes on and on. There is a terrific book by Morris Berman titled “The Twilight of American Culture” some of this information was mined (stolen! plagiarised) from that work. I highly recommend the book.
So, our language reflects some of our descent into idiocy. “Have a good one”. Overused by everyone. I think that people could be a little more creative if they tried – “hope your wife has the clap and you have a pleasant evening”. I grew up in the south and “Y’all come back now, heah?” was heard alot and after the 50th time became tiring, too. In certain parts of the country you will “where’s it at?”. Charming but it ain’t not good speechefying.
It just isn’t his “for-tay”. The word is forte – italian – loud to musicians. It just isn’t his loud? Excuse me? It should be “fort” : thanks goes to George Carlin for that observation. Language reflects our thought processes; grows from our intellectual search; is the one thing that seperates us from the rest of the creatures on earth. Now lets not trot out the old whale song argument. If language becomes simplified to accomodate the uneducated, the marginally illiterate then we are in deep trouble.
Oh my happy bloggers, just wait until I get to religion. Now there is where the dumbed down really live. The press has come forth with numerous opinion columns about the christians, jews and islam all having the same god. “We are all the sons of Abraham” Oh really? Just him? Sarah wasn’t involved? And lets not forget Hagar while we are at it.

One thought on “dumbing down

  • I had to check out the etymology of the word “for-tay” as you so delightfully spelled it. I’ve always said “fort”, but find that people actually try to correct me more often than not, or they look at me funny. It’s interesting that there are actually two different origins and two different meanings: one is from french, is pronounced “fort” and means metier, or specialty. The other is, as you mentioned, from italian, is pronounced “for-teh” and means loud or forceful, as you wrote. The entire entry from dictionary.com is here, and it’s fun when you get to the editor’s usage note…
    for�te 1 ( P ) Pronunciation Key (f�rt, f�rt, frt)
    n. Something in which a person excels.
    The strong part of a sword blade, between the middle and the hilt.
    [French fort, from Old French, strong, from Latin fortis. See fort.]
    Synonyms: forte, m�tier, specialty, thing
    These nouns denote something at which a person is particularly skilled: Writing fiction is her forte. The theater is his m�tier. The professor’s specialty was the study of ancient languages. Mountain climbing is really my thing.
    Usage Note: The word forte, coming from French fort, should properly be pronounced with one syllable, like the English word fort. Common usage, however, prefers the two-syllable pronunciation, (f�rt-a), which has been influenced possibly by the music term forte borrowed from Italian. In a recent survey a strong majority of the Usage Panel, 74 percent, preferred the two-syllable pronunciation. The result is a delicate situation; speakers who are aware of the origin of the word may wish to continue to pronounce it as one syllable but at an increasing risk of puzzling their listeners.”

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