Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Have we gone too far with thing and things?

In analyzing Agatha Christie’s writing over her lifetime, linguists concluded that her more extensive use of the word thing in her later years was an indicator of her mental decline. That observation barely registered for me at the time. But something must have stuck. I can no longer ignore that at work, in our personal lives, in books and in the media we use thing and things indiscriminately. Are we dumbing down our discourse?

The first inkling that thing and things was getting to me occurred when I was addressing an audience. I became hyper-aware that I was about to use one of the words in a sentence and then struggled for a micro-second to replace thing with the proper word. So far so good but it requires a ton of mental energy.

The next phase was in books, articles and media - it’s everywhere phase. My train of thought is increasingly disrupted by thing and things popping up no matter where I turn. They are well-entrenched in all that I read and hear, scholarly or otherwise. I am astonished at the extent to which we have fallen into a thingy world.

Was Agatha Christie ahead of her time in reflecting a normal evolution of our language? Or, was her mental capability less sharp? What do you think?

My take: a thingy world doesn’t look good on us.