Tuesday, October 27, 2015

informalities, language, and fruit

Ages ago, I had a colleague read over something I'd written for an annual review, and he fixated on my use of the word "amongst." "Among," he pointed out, was the more acceptable and contemporary word, while "amongst" was merely archaic. This was true, I admitted, but since I get so little opportunity to express myself in formal documents, I'd rather just use the strange word as a release from the institutionality of the required document. Said colleague just shook his head and called me weird.

I am weird. I have no problem with that. The language bit, though? I'm very much into letting my personality come through my writing, and I have no problem tweaking the expected language requirements to let that happen. There's nothing wrong with giving one's personality through, and using archaic and just plain weird words whenever possible allows this to happen...while still maintaining the required standards of formality. After all, amongst is still perfectly acceptable from a grammatical standpoint. So why not use it?

Language should still be a reflection of the writer's personality, and if said writer can use it as such whilst still maintaining the proper grammatical standards of the situation? So much the better. And this shouldn't hold one back from applying the same approach in less formal situations.

I like old-timey words and phrasing. Maybe this comes from my dear foreigner mother, who still peppers her language with phrases like "donkey's years" (meaning a long time ago). I default to either overblown academic sentence structure (see the first sentence of paragraph three) or 19th century-esque Southern colloquial slang. This is one of the reasons why, if we would've had a son instead of a daughter, I would've made a half-hearted push for Delmar as a name. My lovely spouse, for the record, is relieved that this never became a serious argument.

Today, at breakfast, we (really more me, with my mom and wife as leery bystanders) got into a discussion of the types of berries included in a mixed berry yogurt. I expressed dismay that boysenberries and huckleberries were not on the ingredient list. My spouse didn't know what a huckleberry looked like, so I pulled up the Wikipedia huckleberry page so I might show her some photos. Then I stumbled upon the subtopic "Use in slang." It's so awesome, I'll quote it here in full:
Huckleberries hold a place in archaic American English slang. The tiny size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, often affectionately as in the lyrics of Moon River. The phrase "a huckleberry over my persimmon" was used to mean "a bit beyond my abilities". "I'm your huckleberry" is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job.The range of slang meanings of huckleberry in the 19th century was fairly large, also referring to significant persons or nice persons.
First, this alone justifies Wikipedia's existence. More importantly, we need to start a movement to return huckleberry to the contemporary slang lexicon. We have to turn this viral! I want to see huckleberry memes! All hail the great huckleberry!

I realize that the task of getting the common folk to actually use these slang terms might be a huckleberry over my persimmon. I will still try, however. The fruit deserves all of our best interests.

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