Monday, January 04, 2010

One Dot, More Or Less, Won't Hurt

You’ve got this letter, the “i,” and it can’t just be a little line, like a half “l.” Not at all. It needs that little dot over it. The thing just doesn’t seem complete without it.

When I sharpen a pencil, it feels incomplete until I give it that little puff at the end to get rid of any loose shavings. Making tea just isn’t done until I squeeze the teabag, not only with my fingers, but also with the little envelope the bag comes in. You just have to finish the job and dotting the “i” has become part of our culture.

I don’t know why. What’s the big deal about having that little bit of ink over the vertical mark? Same with the “j”: will the world stop spinning if that selfsame dot goes away and never returns? It’s like the Lincoln penny, suchlike it’s really quite useless, but we would be awfully sad if it disappeared. Pennies and dots just belong.

I wonder if it was a pronunciation guide from some day in the past when there were two letters, one dotted and one not. Those with dots were spoken (or read) differently from their undotted relatives. Same with the j-birds. After all, the Krauts have two dots over their “U,” for whatever reason, so there is precedence.

Evolution is a slow process; we don’t change much in a hundred years, maybe a bit of DNA here and there. It’s taken a long time for us to adapt to cow’s milk, not a natural food for people. So will we eventually adapt to a dotless-i? A dotless-j? What will the linguistic future bring to the English-language culture?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't go messing with that! Are not there enough people out there today who cannot manage English without you throwong a monkey wrench into their '' j's''

Reminds me of guy I knew who, after tightening a blot would give that little extra twist ''just in case, y'never know y'know''

As for the English language, I was watching football yesterday and the three games were DULL...but I amused myself by wondering whereabouts of the spurce of all those first names of the players . It is almost like they were baptized with a nickname.

Exit 318

January 04, 2010 6:23 AM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

Dad never liked it when I did that "one extra" twist on a jar. "You're just like Tom Bowe," he would sputter.

Yeah. Live with it.

January 04, 2010 8:54 PM  

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