In our progressively (yes, I meant the pun) dumbed-down society, “literacy” has come to mean simply being able to laboriously puzzle out the written word. That’s sad. For one thing, it means that people who are literate by that commonly-accepted definition can graduate from college without being able to puzzle out the meaning of the directions on a prescription pill bottle, a bus schedule or a dumbed-down (to supposed eighth-grade level) newspaper editorials.
There. Did I make that link hard enough to miss? 🙂 The data that article draws on is scarier than the article. If you search hard enough, you can find it. *heh* (Yeh, not doing folks’ homework for them on this one. I only want the ones who are… literate enough *heh* to be able to handle the info to get it. Snarky enough? Probably.)
But the problem is really worse than that. Maybe because we’ve become a society defined by the audio-visual media that is TV and radio more than anything else, the proliferation of markers demonstrating that even folks who can read, don’t, or (worse?) that when they do, they read dreck, slop, crap, really, really stupid and uninformed writers.
A very few examples will illustrate my point.
How often have you seen and heard people use “anniversary” to indicate something other than an annual event? “Two month anniversary” is a common example. What part of “anni”–from Latin, “anno” or YEAR–have these subliterate idiots missed?
Or, one I read recently from someone who is ill-read, but who listens to subliterate Hivemind podpeople enough to be dis-educated: “…for the light of me…” when the appropriate phrase was “for the LIFE of me”. Compound that with the multiple occurrences of such phrases as “woks of life,” “chester drawers” “intensive purposes” and a veritable Legion (and yes I meant that2 cultural reference *heh*) of other malaprops, stupidities and downright illiteracies, and we have a society progressing toward genuine illiteracy.
And what, pray, hath brought about this effusion of disgust for a growing illiteracy in our society? Why, the annual profusion of one of its most stupid examples: FEB-YOU-ARY.
It’s FebRUary, dumbasses.
Of course, in the mini-rant above, I did not place enough stress on one of the worst aspects of progressive illiteracy: who the illiterates listen to and “read”. As Mark Twain wisely said,
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
Note the word, “good”. People who find books written by such as Dan Brown to be readable are people who have denied themselves the advantage of reading books that are well-written and so don’t even know that they are poking a metaphorical screwdriver into their forebrain and stirring. People who watch or read “news” (propaganda) promulgated by an increasingly subliterate Mass MEdia Podpeople Hivemind rarely twig to the fact that they are being enstupiated by doing so. (And yes, I know that the word “enstupiated” is used more often by me than by any other source known to Google. So? It’s a perfectly good neologism coined by John Stossel, IIRC. :-))
Of course, it’s a thorny problem. So many people have “gradumacated” from American public schools having been told they are”literate” that most do not even know that they are, at best, fumble-headed subliterates. Those few of us who twig to the fact that the “edumacation” system is seriously broken may figure out that we are technically literate subliterates and begin to take steps to correct the problem, but it’s a long, hard row to hoe (and a tip o’ the tam to Davy Crockett for being the first to record that phrase :-)). I’m still working on my literacy (the Lays of Ancient Rome and other works by Macaulay, among many, are still unscaled works, for example), and expect to continue to do so right up until my body’s ready to be cremated.
Most folks, it seems, surrender their literacy to the care (and poisoning) of others more interested in keeping them fat and stupid than anything else.