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The Language of Change

Since reading this piece in The New York Times, I’ve been thinking about English courses in a new light. In summary, books have been talking less about emotion over the past century. Mood words are down, though you wouldn’t know it from the proliferation of moody comments all over the Internet.

Why should you care? Isn’t this just an issue for humanities folk? Communication is what education is all about, at least by my way of thinking. Bringing students into dialogue—polished, thoughtful dialogue with greater society—is the goal. The whole point of learning to read and write at a higher level is so that students can express themselves and understand the ideas of other thinkers.

I can’t help thinking of 1984 and George Orwell’s “newspeak.” Limiting language, whether from top-down policies or through disuse, inhibits our ability to think and communicate clearly. That’s an issue no matter your field of study.

Or am I overthinking this? Words change. Literature changes. New ways of expression appear, others fall by the wayside. Do I have different sorts of essays to look forward to grading over the next decades, ones that use stronger arguments instead of descending into touchy-feely mumbo jumbo?

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