Read on as I take a break from Vietnam-expat-life writing to get snarky.
The only constant is change, and language is no exception. Words and their meanings are ever evolving, a reflection of the needs, desires, and behaviors of speakers, writers, and readers of that language. This evolution often happens to the joy of some (e.g., the addition of “yooper” to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in 2014 for my boyfriend and his family, who are from Escanaba, Michigan—his mom got him a t-shirt emblazoned with “yooper” and its definition across the chest shortly after the news came out) and to the dismay of others (see: jegging).
Digital culture in particular has played a large role in the English language’s recent evolution: more additions to Merriam-Webster in the past two years include catfish, crowdfunding, digital divide, net neutrality, and NSFW. However, new establishment-recognized words aren’t the only way that language can evolve. I’ve noticed increasing usage of the following forms of internet writing, most frequently in photo captions or status updates on social media, all of which I find to be problematic.
Call me a curmudgeon ahead of my time if you’d like. I just can’t help but think of a lunch and learn that I sat through as an intern at National Geographic, with a famous feature writer as the speaker. He had started out as a caption writer for the magazine. That was all he did—write useful captions to help readers understand the photos they were viewing, all within a tight word count so that they could fit into the magazine’s layout. It was something you had to perfect if you wanted to work your way up the ladder. This profession still exists, perhaps in a less respected way, because digital publications tag their photos so that search engines can help people find what they’re looking for.
My point is, I enjoy when captions have a purpose, and when status updates or tweets are informative or funny or thoughtful. But more often, they’re so stylized their only use is to help keep my social media scrolling as mindless as I’d hoped it’d be.
“You forgot your tenth complaint,” you’re thinking, you savvy, discerning reader.
10. Listicles. Writers can’t seem to argue a solid point anymore without using lists.
I quit a job I enjoyed at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and left my family, friends, and beloved dog to join my boyfriend in moving across the world, in search of adventure and new experiences. I arrived in August 2015.