Debasement Is Not Just a Damp Room Under Your House

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When I opened
my Sunday New York Times to a story on Derek Jeter this week
I was stumped from the first word. I had to ask my daughter to define
OMG. "I use it all the time," she said. "Where have
you been?"

"Oh my
God," I reminded her. "In France."

Visitors, foreign
and American-born, are finding communication increasingly difficult
as catchwords proliferate. Often they seem to come from the schoolyard.

Just how debased
can the English language become and still be called English? I pondered
this question as I attempted to function in the U.S. after living
an extended period in Europe.

The day before
my OMG experience, an angry motorist in Boston wanted to share his
opinion of my driving skills. He held up his right hand to his forehead
and formed an "L" with his thumb and index finger extended.
"Loser," my 12-year-old grandson translated. As I grumbled
unintelligibly, my grandson held up three fingers and rotated his
hand to the left. The "W" became an "E", shorthand
for "whatever."

I assume American
adults will be doing the "whatever" sign to each other
eventually, just as they picked up the l-word. ("Whatever"
as a spoken word regrettably seems here to stay.)

Kids used to
borrow language from adults. Now the opposite is happening. Is this
country regressing?

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23, 2010

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