Monday, 25 January 2010

It's Kind of a Mix...

Evening, ever expanding readership (I know you're out there, I can name three of you)!

Like most folk, I like to read the newspaper. Like more folk, I like to cut to the chase and grab the bit with the crossword in. Because I loyally follow a particular mostly unbiased newspaper owned by a media tyrant, I've become acquainted worryingly well with the layout of my crossword section. Imagine my delight and surprise, then, when it was announced several months ago that a chap would be writing each Monday with some informed pedantry concerning the English Language. Huzzah!

The next week, I grabbed the paper with glee, and flicked to the page I had anticipated. Horror! This fellow, this protector of the our Mother Tongue, had got it all wrong! This wasn't commentary on linguistics, this was a stubborn middle-aged man going on about the decline of language, and how we're not supposed to use split infinitives and the like (don't even get me STARTED!).

Peeved, I endured, and still do. However, a mistake he made a few months ago has re-entered my brain for reasons I will never know. No matter, though, for it allows me to vent my proverbial spleen, and enlighten the boys and girls who so frequent the internet. My point, darling reader, is that the Pedant (as he calls himself) was against this word:


You may have seen it, you may have used it. You may have rolled in the glorious sound of its delightful diphthong. You may, of course, have never used it. If not, don't blame yourself. However, its meaning should become clear immediately. It is, as far as I know, a combination of "melt" and "blend", serving to scintillate the senses with an almost onomatopoeic new verb.

"Oh no!" Cries the Pedant, "That's not the meaning of "meld" at all! Don't you silly children know? It's a German [he even got that wrong, it's Dutch in this sense] word used in canasta, and it's still used as such, gerroff my language! Shoo!" What's worse is that this is hardly an exaggeration. Well, Pedant, this may not be the largest audience ever (I'd be surprised if half of them were still interested after I used the word diphthong), but it's there, and I'll used it. Behold, the reasons why the Pedant is foolish in his humble opinion:

1) Words have more than one meaning each. Everyone knows this, it happens all the time, yet it's conveniently for gotten here for a good ol' bit of conservative change-hating. Remember my article on "cool"? Where's the outcry? Where's the fury? If there was any, it was lost in the awesome popularity of Miles Davies' trumpet, that's where.

2) "Meld" in this oh-so-despised form isn't even a neologism, as the Pedant would have you believe. No, indeed. The truth of the matter (and I'm going by the OED itself on this one) is that this usage dates back to 1936. That's right, 74 years ago, D.T. Lutes put "meld" in a cookbook, and got the ball rolling. To add insult to injury, the very paper the Pedant works for used the word in the fifties. THE FIFTIES. And again on my birthday in '73! Hahahaha! No further questions, yer 'onour.

I could go on. I could talk about how the refusal to accept new words would drastically alter the Pedant's life. I could go on about the pointlessness of his style of pedantry, from the point of view of a language-lover. I could but I won't. If I did, the whole thing would become as petty two silly little kids squabbling over who ate the most bugs.

Thus, I put it to the jury that you shouldn't believe what you read in the papers. People can be wrong. More to the point, there's nothing wrong with new words, changes in meaning, or coming to the same word via a different route. It's glorious, it's expansive, and it's intellectually stimulating. So, I urge you, put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, and write. Write all those lovely words floating in your head and meld them with reality.


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