Language: evolving or just eroding?

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

They say our language is a living thing and that is never more apparent that on the net.

I’m not entirely sure who “they” is, whether it’s that all-knowing, all-seeing being (Seymour the Wonder Cat) or someone/something a bit lower down the food chain.

Each year, People of Great Importance who work for the various dictionaries compile a list of new words to be included in the melting pot that is our language: words such as unfriend and hacktivism.

Then there are the makers of Scrabble, who are planning to chuck out the rulebook and allow us to use proper nouns. Has the world gone mad?

But I digress. Back to the words we’ve inherited from the internet.

Those People of Great Importance at Oxford, Webster and the likes could increase the size of their wordy lists if they just spent more time on Trade Me. There, they would find a virtual plethora of new words.

I’m not just talking about the regular misspellings that pop up in Trade Me’s online auctions (denium jeans and dinning tables, sets of draws and mixing bowels), I’m also talking about the words that appear so regularly on the site’s message boards that they’ve taken on a life of their own.

Voila, that age-old exclamation of accomplishment, has been given the phonetics treatment to become “walla” and computering seems to be a more popular pastime than computing.

However, my personal favourite has to be “guttered”. The extra syllable seems to be a permanent fixture on the Trade Me boards these days.

Yes, they mean “gutted” as in bitterly disappointed, not something that has gutters. Even better, I’m sure I heard some wee chicky-babe presenter on TV3’s now defunct breakfast news programme use the word guttering when talking about her own bitter disappointment.



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