Let me, please, issue a decree that will lift a weight off your life. Spelling, good bad right or wrong, is now an acronim. Its as dead as the tadpole that irrelevant old farts call an apostrophe, and even the below-line tadpole called the comma is sprinkled with such gay abandon that it's purpose is questionable.
And as I came at long last to this acceptance this week, my mornings have thrown off the niggle that arrived midway through breakfast. It arrived midway through breakfast because at about that time in this or another newspaper I'd come across the first incorrect use of the verb license or the noun licence.
In fact, the two were used incorrectly so often that I would question sometimes whether I was confused. Now, as of today, they are not used incorrectly because there is no incorrect use. It is simply that they are used. And no longer do I endure the mental equivalent of throwing my hands in the air despairingly or even angrily halfway through breakfast. It's not just spelling that is as obsolete as my use of the expression gay abandon six sentences ago. The notion of verbs and nouns is as pointless as the difference between license and licence, and when my middle daughter told me a week ago that my two-year-old grandson had been tantrumming all morning I didn't make so much as a squeak of disapproval.
Perhaps I should explain that old codgers and old biddies and those with early-onset irrelevancy believed, until my decree today, that tantrum was a noun, not a verb, and that there was a difference between a noun and a verb and that it mattered.
That it no longer matters is the new freedom. Language is a living thing, say those who are more tolerant than we used to be, and evidence of that is the progression of wrong spelling to dictionary listing as alternative spelling and, in time, to the most common spelling.
The word restauranteur was a misspelling of restaurateur, became an alternative spelling and by now may be the primary spelling. Feel free from today, by the way, to use alternate instead of alternative.
We can't be certain whether restauranteur has become the primary spelling because there is no longer an authority as authoritative as The Oxford Dictionary used to be. That's because now we ask Google for the correct spelling and we take that from any source Google gives us.
But, hey, it no longer matters! There is no correct spelling. Restauranteur was always a sensible misspelling, and another is miniscule, which until this week would sour my breakfast. It used to be minuscule, and still is among those with delusions of superiority, but describing something tiny as minuscule rather than miniscule was always about laying traps for the great unwashed.
And just as the meaning of our life changes over its course so does the meaning of words, or at least that is how you should look upon the issue from today.
Take refute, a word favoured now by journalists who find the words deny or reject too bland. Until our epiphany today refute meant to prove wrong, but it has been quite some years since I have seen it used as anything other than to deny.
Enormity is another word that seems to have had its meaning changed by journalists. Until today, for me and you, it was the noun for something evil, for a wickedness, but today we accept that its use as the noun of enormous is much more sensible.
And why bother now about the difference in meaning between forego and forgo? Or the different uses of that and which? Compliment and complement? Stationary and stationery? Effect and affect?
Revel in the lifting of the weight!
Pedants love apostrophes. Err, hopefully we'll be rid of the ph in everything soon. As you may know apostrophes are, or were, used to denote the possessive or the contraction of one or more words.
The simple word its shows us how simple it was not. The contraction of it is to it's has an apostrophe while the possessive its does not, and while I have to pause every time I write the word its to ensure that I get it right I never pause for a millisecond when I read its because the meaning is instantly apparent.
In the second sentence of this column today did the incorrect absence of an apostrophe in the first its and the incorrect appearance of an apostrophe in the second its have any impact on your comprehension? I wonder if my generation has harrumphed forever about the correct use of written English because we found satisfaction in gloating over younger people, because we clung to that superiority in a world leaving us behind. The fact that we were the last reading generation and that the next was the first of the television generations didn't seem to mitigate our condemnation.
As well, I think, getting the intricate rules of written English right was the great selector, and because those who did get them right were the selected ones they were keen to preserve the privilege. Hordes of deserving people would have been denied opportunity and further education because they offended the overseeing pedants.
The old notions of correct spelling and punctuation and grammar doom the new generation of adults to failure, or they would if this generation of texters and emailers did not ignore them guiltlessly.
Remember, it's about nothing but communication. So, chill.
I wonder if my generation has harrumphed forever about the correct use of written English because we found satisfaction in gloating over younger people, because we clung to that superiority in a world leaving us behind.