Matter moves to a more disorganized state, if you allow it some time. I’m not a physics expert, but that’s entropy, the second law of thermodynamics in a nutshell (yes, I’m oversimplifying). Any parent can explain that one via the self-evident and irrefutable evidence of a child’s room. If you select any random child, hire an army of housekeepers to clean his room, let them get at it, pay them their wage, stand back and admire the spotless cleanliness of aforementioned room, turn your back for an instant, and then return for another admiring glance, what do you find? You find a mess.
Entropy, in the context of a child’s room operates according to formula. Room plus Child plus Time equals Mess. The only way to counteract this is to send the child off to boarding school.
Now that I’ve set the stage for entropy, consider the idea in the context of the English language. Having been writing for decades now, for fun and profit, I’m beginning to suspect that entropy is wreaking its toll on language as well. Granted, language is constantly in a state of evolutionary flux as new words are added due to such things as technological and scientific advancement (in addition to old words sloughing off due to technologies and customs falling prey to old age), but what we are seeing nowadays is something entirely different.
Nowadays, communication, regardless of medium, is governed by the post-modern idea that meaning is not inherent in the original body of work as intended by the writer (or artist, etc). If you’ve recently taken a literary criticism class, you’ll probably know what I mean. Rather, meaning is inherent in how the reader or listener or viewer interprets and understands according to his own life experience and education and worldview. Thus, meaning, even of single words, is losing its grip on the past; its anchor back to the point in historical time in which the word was created is dragging. In a great many cases, the anchor chain has snapped completely. Furthermore, technology is filtering a great deal of communication, particularly for younger people, so that exchanges take place in hurried, slipshod ways. Words no longer need precise use, and many people have no expectations of their precise use. Voila. Entropy at work, due to the pressures of post-modernity, as well as technological changes in social interaction.
Marshall McLuhan once famously remarked that “the medium is the message,” inferring that the medium, the vehicle of communication, forms and influences the message itself. I think his saying has become somewhat passé in light of entropy and the unfortunate evolution of modern language. McLuhan’s saying still holds a certain amount of truth, but, I would argue that it is becoming replaced with a different truth. Namely, the recipient is the message.