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Subject:Corruption of Language From:Dan Dieterich <ddieteri -at- UWSPMAIL -dot- UWSP -dot- EDU> Date:Wed, 11 May 1994 13:44:13 -0600
"There" (as in "There are three things to do.") is an expletive; it
means nothing. "There is" is not passive voice, but it is generally a waste of
time to write those sorts of sentence openers.
You write that when we "accept 'some mistakes were made.' we're really
accepting a corruption of the language i think." Language can't be corrupted
(despite what Lao Tzu said). If it could, we'd be sending all our dangling
participles to homes for wayward words. People, on the other hand, can be
corrupted. And people often use language to accomplish that feat.
Outlawing "am/is/are/was/were/be/being/been" or any other "bad words"
that come to mind (e.g., obscenity, scatology, profanity) won't stop people
from corrupting other people. If John Sununu couldn't use the passive voice,
he would NOT suddenly become Mary Poppins. Those who wish to deceive will find
ways to do so. Educating people about how people use language to manipulate
others accomplishes far more than attempting to get rid of "bad words." I'm
fascinated by the work of general semanticists (E-Prime speakers as well as
non-) because they help us better understand how people use language to
influence the way others think and feel. It's useful to learn that . . . and
to help our children learn it too.