Yesterday, a wet Sunday where I live, I had a pleasant visit with my grandchildren — twins who are almost 2 years old and already playing basketball and baseball. No, really. And they are really good at them. They are not ready for the Yankess or Celtics quiet yet, but they are good for 2 year olds. Grandpa says so.
While at my son’s apartment in the Athens, Ga., area, I had a chance to the throw the old horse hide for my grandkids to hit — which they did — I told you they are good — and then after all the action, settled down for some reading of a Mickey Mouse epic and one on all kinds of animals — including the octopus (the kids get a kick out of saying the word.)
While reading, though, I had a mental blast: I hope these kids, my grandchildren, and their peers, will not have difficulty learning to read and write. Not that they won’t have the brain power, but that with the changes being brought about through digital media these days — in particular I am thinking about texting — there may be such confusion as to what is standard English that future generations may have trouble deciding what is proper usage or spelling. They may be taught to do things a certain way in the classroom, but then discover a different world when actually communicating (a situation we have now with texting).
Such a predicament would not bode well for young people just learning about English, or any language. Confusion over language “rules” or guidelines could lead to a general disinterest in such details and, as a result, a general “failure to communicate,” to use the great line from “Cool Hand Luke.”
As I read, I hoped my concerns would prove unwarranted; that educators and professional communicators and the communications industry and the public at large will come to a consensus on what is proper for good, effective communication. As I thought and hoped, though, I asked the kids to repeat the word octopus and even spelled it with them — even though they are not yet 2 — several times.