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Monday, September 10, 2012

What Kinda Language Is This?

I love language. I don't love what's happening to it. I know, I know, language is always changing; I learned that a long time ago as an English lit major. Language is dynamic, and there's a school of thought that believes if it communicates, then it's OK.

By that measure, the current practice of using the word "kinda" fails miserably.

As in, "I kinda disagree." Do you disagree, or don't you? 

Ditto "kind of," as in, "It's kind of wrong." 

Call it the Language of Equivocation.

It may have begun with the overuse of the word "like," as in "She's like, so talented." Is she talented or an imitation of someone who's talented?

Such equivocation shows up everywhere, in conversation of course, and disappointing, in newspapers and magazines. But during a recent ride on the Metro-North train from Connecticut to New York, my eyes couldn't believe what they saw on a poster flacking the state of Maine:



Sheesh.


This was so nonsensical, I couldn't figure out what it was equivocating about. 


Trekking over to the state's tourism Website, visitmaine.com, I looked for meaning in the poster language. I wanted to know what The Maine Thing was.

It was kinda not there.





19 comments:

  1. The poster is awful; however, I think "kind of" and "kinda" arrived as an outgrowth of politeness, with good intentions. It's not that the speaker (or writer) doesn't know her opinion. Rather, she is trying to break it to you nicely: "Those pants kinda make you look fat." It sounds nicer, it allows you to get the news a little more gently. Likewise, perhaps "I'm kind of a big deal" sounds a little more humble with the "kind of." Or perhaps not.

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    1. I think you're right, KimT; the language does indicate an effort to soften. Mission accomplished, along with making the meaning mushy.

      Interesting on the "big deal" speaker. Is that real modesty or fake modesty that wants you to believe it's real? Or is it simply politeness? Who can know? Don't you love the psychology of language?

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  2. After reading this I thought about what I wrote in my last comment. The word or non word 'compocation'. Ha... Not a word. Maybe I need to not be so lazy and type what I mean. I wondered if compocation might have triggered this post. After all not many people would have known I meant compost vacation. Only someone with a jasmine plant sitting in their compost might be able to decipher that. I do know what you mean, really. I wonder if all the young people texting now will start to talk in abbreviated words and sentences. It is scary to think that.

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    1. No, Lisa, I like the cleverness of compocation. It's understandable, too. There's nothing clever or understandable about that poster, which is what triggered the post.

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    2. I agree that the poster is confusing. I tried reading it again. It just doesn't make sense.

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  3. I was thinking the exact same thing this evening when our professor at USF started the first night of class skipping (totally skipping, as in not going back) the first 10 chapters of our Statistics for Managers book. "That's all stuff you should know." Well chapter 11 looked "kinda" like a foreign language to me. I came home completely overwhelmed - and then I saw your post. Put a smile on my face.

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    1. Hey, that's good, Elizabeth – the smile, I mean. Here's hoping you get through that Stats class with flying colors and grades. Cheers.

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  4. I'm kinda bummed out about this. I think of these sentence inserts as verbal tics, like saying um or ah. But to see a verbal tic written on a poster? It's sorta unnerving. It's um, so . . ah. . . wrong.

    (I hope NY was fun and diverting anyway!)

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    1. Verbal tics, yes, perhaps. And, maybe it's meant to be avant garde poster copy. Thanks, Laurrie, New York's always a kick.

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  5. I'm glad that there's someone left to notice these things and care. The venom that one can receive for commenting on this sort of thing amazes me.

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    1. Marie, I'm pleased the piece resonates with you.

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  6. Maybe Maine is so unsure about what it offers that they chose not to spread the vagueness online. Their ad was so lacking in conviction it's funny in a pathetic way.

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    1. Yes, it's strange enough to make you wonder whether the ad's a send-up, a diversion for train riders.

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  7. That poster is so confusing that maybe it makes you start thinking about Maine. Nah. It just makes you start thinking about bad language. I've noticed a lot of poorly edited or non-edited books in the last several years since editorial houses have let go all the copy editors.

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    1. We may think about Maine, but with puzzlement.

      Book editing has become virtually non-existent. Years ago, I was livid at an editor's lapses on one of my books. Today, I'd expect nothing. Sigh.

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  8. Hey, Lee. Oh, my goodness! That poster makes no sense to me either. Let's hang on to the English language for dear life!
    All the best. :-)

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    1. Amazing, isn't it, Beth. It's getting harder and harder to hang on, but let's keep trying. Cheers on you.

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  9. The poster is perplexing. The use of "yay" for "yea" drives me crazy. I even saw it in a book written by a Yale professor. We can file both of these under things that make you go hmm.

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    1. I read it over and over to see if I was missing intended humor. Sadly, I saw no joke. Et tu, Yale prof?

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