Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dumbing Down

I recently read an article on how, as a society, we are dumbing down. It wasn't particularly well written, in fact, most of the examples this woman gave were pretty lame. Her point was that advertising and product labeling has come to an all time low. To write on a coffee cup, "caution: contents may be hot" seems a little stupid. The point is, if they don't give you the warning, you can sue the people that served you the coffee and/or the makers of the coffee cup. Ridiculous. So, as a result of the sue-crazed public, manufacturers are now having to label their products with the most redundant information and they have to give specific instructions on even the simplest of all devices. For instance, do you really need to explain how to put up a hair dryer so someone doesn't inadvertently step into the shower with the water running to unplug the little booger. Personally, I remember being fairly young when I found the first instruction on the microwave popcorn bag hilarious. It read, "remove bag from outer plastic and unfold." Not funny in itself until you realize that I had to do all that in order to read the instructions.

I've been feeling pretty dumb lately while reading other people's writing. Heck, I know I can't keep up with the Wall Street Journal, but these are people I know writing this stuff. (see that technical word, "stuff") I couldn't use the word "musing" or "diverge" in a real sentence. I had a hard time coming up with a sentence for "render" other than "The wrestler rendered his opponent helpless." Pathetic I tell you, pa-the-tic!

What do I plan to do about this? I've been looking up words. I'm going to get word-of-the-day toilet paper. (Oh, just kidding there Friends fans) I actually paid close attention to what I was reading one night. I have always been fascinated by JK Rowling's ability to write complex sentences and use a mix of English, muggle, and wizarding words. So, in Chapter 13 of "The Half-Blood Prince" I wrote every word that I don't hear in everyday speech. Here's the list:

Words I might have used and could define in essay format: feigning, impertinent, inadvertently, squarely, notorious, intrigued, deluded, irksome, unnerved
Words I probably have never used but could pick out of a multiple choice quiz: astute, incensed, indignantly, unrequited, famed, inquisitorial (glance), admonitions, cache, ominously, enigmatic
Words I have never seen before, wish that JK made up, but could figure out their meaning through context: quellingly, swilled, bestial, magpie-like tendency.

There you have it folks. That's what a college degree will get you. But remember, I'm not as think as you dumb I am. And, since I don't hear it in everyday speech, that says something about the people I converse with, doesn't it? Hopefully they're not dumbing down for my sake!


April said...

I once heard that newpapers are written at the sixth grade level because that's generally where the mass public is at in terms of literacy.
I don't worry too much about my voacb but I know I get tenses wrong. I had a teacher who used to always tell me I was writing in the wrong tense. I can't even remember what gobbledegook he told me it was. I didn't care as long as what I had to say was good.

tempe turley said...

Last week a friend of mine suggested we rent the movie Idiocracy. Apparently it's about an American who falls asleep for about 20 years and wakes up to realize he is literally the smartest man alive because society has gotten dumber and dumber. I'll let you know if I watch it how it is...

H said...

I thought newspapers were written at the 5th grade level. Maybe they've moved up a grade :)
Idiocracy sounds hilarious.

btg said...

Hw stupid am I? I read this posting twice before I got it. I had read "Dumbling Down". Twice. I couldn't figure ouy what "Dumbling" was. Maybe it was one of your new words...