Wednesday, 29 April 2009

And my alright answer is...

In response to this question I posed over the word "alright", my own personal answer is - yes, "alright" is a word, but only in the right way.

Let me explain!

I'm going to draw on a mix of my friend Gary's excellent response (located here if you're viewing this on facebook), some more lines on this random poll I found through Google, and my own observations and opinions.

To write "alright" simply out of ignorance is not an excuse. Also, in the new book, I've only used it in characters' dialogue where they mean "okay"; I wouldn't put it in the narrative (although that's not from whether it's a real word or not, it's just sloppy language, like "nice"). Real people say the word "nice", but authors don't write it. But, used correctly in the right way as all words should be, it is a word.

Here's a post back on that poll which makes a good point:

Matthew - 9th April 2009 01:41
"it's just like writing alwrong...we wouldn't write that, so why would anyone think alright is a word? "
Following that logic, "altogether," "almost," and "already" aren't words.

Rightly or wrongly, "alright" has sprung up as a concept because we already (aha! you see?) have words with the "al-" prefix. It doesn't stick out as being insane. We have many many words in the English language which are hybrids of two ordinary, smaller, separate words - "today", "tomorrow", "yesterday", "beware", "between", "gunshot", there's loads out there.

On the same subject, my good friend Gary makes a broader yet more probing point:

"[Language is] an evolving and developing thing and never stands still. We continually need new words for things. We didn't have words for "television" and "telephone" before needed them. Should they have gone nameless, just because they weren't in the dictionary?"

And this is exactly my conclusion.

"Alright" is already an idea - it means "okay", "not bad", "acceptable". What it certainly doesn't mean is: "Everything is ALL correct! ALL of it!"

Whether it's officially in the dictionary won't change how people mean it.

Language changes. I'm always the first to moan about TXT TLK - it's brought on a massive and rapid reduction in what I'd call basic literacy amongst all sections of the British population, and most likely other countries too. But this is a rapid change. "Alright" has been an idea for decades, if not longer.

As a closing example, think of "lol". You're right, it's not a word! It's the most well-known example of TXT TLK, and even people who use it every day in texts, emails and instant messages would laugh if they heard it used as a real word in spoken language. But if it's already used in casual electronic language today, what's to stop it becoming a word? What if, in a hundred years' time, the majority of everyday people are saying "lol" in everyday conversation?

It would be ridiculous, then, for grey-haired guardians of the dictionary - standing like dusty versions of Gandalf bellowing "You shall not PASS!" - to say it isn't a word.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The war that was, you know, alright

In writing the new book, an issue came up - my wonderful editing friend quite strongly reminded me that "alright" is not a word.

Now, being brought up in a proper and decent household, I was of course taught from an early age that the correct term is "all right". And of course reading and writing extensively has confirmed this.

However, on this occasion, I felt a clash of ideas coming, like universal idas so big they underpin, well, the universe and stuff.

Take a look at this poll (which may or may not be the first link I found on Google):

The replies are of a huge variety. Let's look at some!

Joan - 24th November 2003 23:12
I would recommend using 'all right' in writing.

Hmm, factual but rather boring.

Jason - 15th March 2007 04:21
Alright is a supposed compound word of all right. All right means all correct. The way we use alright is, its ok. It alright. However, such a word does not exist.

Okay this guy has a bit more conviction. Also he explains where it comes from - the shorthand word "alright" actually means that all is right or correct.

ACE - 13th August 2007 02:05
There's no way that I would ever use "alright" in writing. It's completely unprofessional and makes you look stupid.

Ah here we go! "ACE" is clearly prepared to put his/her balls on the line. To be fair, I'd mock someone who used "alright" simply because they were too stupid to know the whole situation.

Meanwhile "Travis" here has just lost the plot - the concept is so insane he doesn't understand the question:

Travis - 16th December 2007 15:00
What do you mean "is alright an acceptable word"? This is so wrong. It should not be a word because you can't make two words one without an apostrophe, with the exceptions being all ready and already; but even these two words have different meanings. You can't have two words that mean the same thing, with different spellings!

Finally, someone who thinks they are educated enough on the subject to call themselves "English Teacher" made this valid point just a month ago:

English teacher - 23rd March 2009 18:18
it's just like writing alwrong...we wouldn't write that, so why would anyone think alright is a word?

So ... what do you think?

I was going to post my answer and final decision in the same post here, but I'd love to hear what you guys all think. Comments please!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Random issue with Simon Pegg film.

Hello - some idle thoughts when I should be doing other things.

Watched the film "How To Lose Friends And Alienate People" recently, and apart from it being a sadly mediochre film by Simon Pegg's standards (a separate issue in itself), something bugged me about the title. It's brilliant. But the film isn't. Ideally in my mind, a film with such a title could be really funny with either of two themes:

1) Start with a guy who has everything - money, girls, success, influence, etc. - but questions the pointlessness and materialist nature of his life, so decides to throw it all away in a series of hilarious anti-social and alienating incidents before finding genuine happiness with Kirsten Dunst.

2) Keep the British guy moving to New York who doesn't understand America or the world of showbiz, but makes success and climbs the social ladder because of his mistakes and faux pas which just accidentally attract attention/popularity/success.

As it was, I thought the film's central theme was rather formulaic.
Bring on the trequel to Sean Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

39,745 words


The new book is finished. No rest for the wicked though - edits and continuity checks and a tight schedule to think about.

More news and details soon.

First though, I need some lunch.