Thursday, December 20, 2007

Words to the Wise

Home from her first semester at college, my daughter mentioned the other day that she was going to declare her major next semester. It will be English.

Is there any better way to say "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up" than to declare your major as English? I suppose she could have chosen philosophy.

Don't misunderstand now, I love literature and words. I am a writer after all. It is just that if we were to take all the English majors in the world, the unemployment line would reach the moon.

English majors are just not valued in today's society, despite how helpful they undoubtedly could be in myriad places. Take, for example, the current Supreme Court appeal of the District of Columbia gun ban, the question apparently hangs on the Second Amendment's use (or overuse, one might argue) of the comma.

The text reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Depending on how you interpret the commas, this cornerstone of American democracy either says that all people have the right keep and bear arms or that being part of the militia gives a person the right to carry a weapon. Or only the militia can keep guns.

And who will be advising the Supreme Court on this weighty matter? A bunch of lawyers who probably never stepped foot in a college grammar class, let alone read the classical literature that inspired the framers of the Constitution.

Let's face it, proper grammar, spelling and punctuation has gone the way of the typewriter.

Brevity is everything in this text-messaging world. Why, even the learned Merriam-Webster Dictionary capitulated to computer jargon in selecting its 2007 word of the year as "w00t" (complete with double zeros in the middle).

All I can say is I won't count on my daughter's support in my old age. :(

1 comment:

Erika said...

We used to say that Psychology (my major) and English degrees qualified you to ask "Do you want fries with that?" at the end of college. ;)