Free online courses seem to be all the rage at the moment. Heck, even my Dad has taken a few courses from some American universities. I've decided to take the plunge and am enrolled in a course offered by UQ: Write101x: English Grammar and Style.
This choice of course may surprise some. "Aren't you a technical writer, Lucas?!". Yes, but whilst I think I can write fairly decently, for the most part I don't really know why. Trying to understand that 'why' is mostly why I'm taking this course.
This first week involved submitting a 300 word blog post for the course. One of the questions this week was about our favourite word, and I thought I'd cross-post my submission below.
I enjoy discovering what people submit as their favourite word. This is partly because I enjoy attempting to experience language and grammar from an external, third-person perspective, but also because I think it provides an insight into a person's personality.
For example, my favourite word is 'cromulent'. I enjoy seeing other people's reactions when revealing this, because most would not even recognise it as a proper word, and it is not listed in most respected dictionaries. It is a humorous neologism that has its origin in The Simpsons episode 'Lisa the Iconoclast'.
In that episode, 'cromulent' it is used as a fictitious word, which is unique to the Simpsons' city, and is used to justify the existence of another fictitious word unique to the city, 'embiggen'. Synonyms of cromulent include: fine, acceptable, legitimate, and normal. I like how meta the word is, and how it is almost exclusively understood and enjoyed by Simpsons fans. This humorous word also exposes what I love about language and grammar: it is fluid and constantly evolving.
Many words that are commonly used today were not used even as recently as twenty or thirty years ago. Technology has played an even bigger role in facilitating the speed and spread of neologisms and the evolution of language. As someone who works as a writer in the technology industry, language and conveying meaning can be very challenging. There seems to be an acronym for everything, and explaining complicated concepts using text is a skill that needs to be learned.
The writing-thinking-learning connection for explaining technical concepts is made even more difficult by this rapidly shifting technological setting. Is someone going to read what you write, listen to it in a video, or possibly even both? How will people consume written prose in the future? These are all perfectly cromulent questions.