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July 23, 2007 - Image 5

Resource type:
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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-07-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Monday July 23, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

RACHEL WAGNER
Wordplay

KATE TRUESDELL
Michigan's cars won't run on B.S.

What do Southern rap-
pers, Indian movie
stars and terrorists
have in common? They've all had a
part in contributing new words to
the Merriam-Webster and the Con-
cise Oxford English dictionaries.
Crunk, Bollywood and agroter-
rorism are
a few of the It's not the
many words speech, it's
both dic-
tionaries the speaker.
have decid-
ed to add to their collections, along
with sudoku, ginormous, celebu-
tante and, my favorite, hoodie.
I never imagined these new
words would be controversial, but
apparently I was wrong. I heard
about the words' new legitimacy
from a friend who was so annoyed
that people could now say crunk
and he speaking proper English.
However, as much as I hate hear-
ing "Get crunk" yelled on football
Saturdays, I had no problem with
the word's newfound status.
The idea of proper English is
extremely arbitrary. Even if you
think you speak proper English
sans accent, you are speaking a dia-
lect of English. The only difference
is that you are speaking the dialect
in power.
Before language standardiza-
tion, all the dialects and varia-
tions of English in Britain stood
on pretty equal footing. It was only
when London began to consolidate
political and economic power that
its particular dialect became the
standard, which circulated thanks
to the printing press.
In America now, we think of
Standard English as the mid-West-
ern, news-broadcaster dialect even
though a few decades ago, the stan-
dard was based in the Northeast.
Where though, do you find people
who actually speak like Brian Wil-
liams or Katie Couric?
Certainly not in the South with
its famous drawl, the Northeast
with its penchant for leaving out
R's or even the Midwest with its
nasal A. Maybe people in Oregon
speak this elusive proper English,
but the point is that proper English
is something that we have made up
and routinely change.
We maybe resistantto language

change because so much of our
identity is based on how we speak.
I wondered then, if the opposition
to some of the new words doesn't
reflect some broader societal bias.
Call me presumptuous, but I can't
imagine the addition of words like
abdominoplasty or agroterrorism
would spark fear that the Eng-
lish language is collapsing. These
words are scientific and relevant
to current events; they are words
mainly used by the educated
upper class.
But how are those words any
more legitimate than crunk and
ginormous? Maybe, this legiti-
macy is because abdominoplasty
and agroterrorism aren't made up
but instead come from preexist-
ing words. If that's the logic, crunk
comes from crazy and drunk (while
also denoting a style of music) and
ginormous comes from gigantic
and enormious.
The problem with these words
doesn't seem to be their meaning
or formation, but rather who uses
them. It seems society is more will-
ing to accept words made up by a
doctor or a politician rather than
a rapper or a preteen girl. Really
though, I don't see how one hasmore
linguistic power than the other. I
know I've certainly said ginormous
and hoodie way more than I've said
mesotherapy or obesogenic.
With language, I say the more
the merrier. Go add crunk and
ginormous. It doesn't mean I have
to use them or that they are appro-
priate for a paper; it just means that
if I say crunk to my mom (highly
unlikely) she can then look it up in
the dictionary.
Language isn't static. If it were
unchangeable, we would still be
speakingand writingin Old English.
What's new one day is classic the
next, as proven by the many words
and phrases Shakespeare invented,
such as go-between, inauspicious
and pomp and circumstance.
Regardless of whether you buy
my argument, it's worth knowing
that crunk was actually in the dic-
tionary in the early 1900s. It was
the past tense of the sound a crane
made.
Rachel Wagner can be reached
at rachwag cumich.edu.

As an amateur environ-
mentalist, I am normally
all for hugging trees.
However, a recent developmentin
the state's environmental sector
indicates
that let- Granholm
ting go of thinks talk
some of wili save the
my woody state.
friends
might actu-
ally help the planet, as well as the
state.
It was announced last Thurs-
day that Masacoma Corp., a Mas-
sachusetts-based company, plans
to build a commercial ethanol
plant thatwill run on wood-based
products, a change from the tra-
ditional corn-based method of
production. As with standard
ethanol plants the end product
is usable vehicle fuel. The new
method, known as "cellulosic eth-
anol production," is considered
useful because it will supposedly
use preexisting wood waste - in
this case, woodchips. Traditional
methods require growing and
transporting large quantities of
corn, a highly natural resource-
intensive practice that has raised
much controversy.
The plant would be the first of
its kind in America's commercial
market. Because of this, Gov. Jen-
nifer Granholm wasted no time
stepping up to the podium, saying
"Mascoma's decision to choose
Michigan is helping us achieve a
key part of our economic plan -
making our state a leader in alter-
native energy production." As if
this had been part of the plan all
along. As if it was by a carefully
laid strategy that this had come
to pass. Well played, Jennifer,
well played.
However, the state had little if
anything to do with this devel-
opment. Though I am skeptical
about whether the plan will come
to pass, it was actually the current
national administration that pro-
posed funding on a federal level,
followed by the USDA in January
of this year. Even if the expected
plans never reach fruition, it can
at least be said that there was an
attempt to raise the technology's
profile.
ILOGS
Read more at michigan-
daily. com/thepodium

The same cannot be said of
the state. In her State of the State
address, Granholm touted Michi-
gan as a Mecca for alternative
energies, stating vaguely that
we live in "the state where the
research into alternative ener-
gies is done." And yet, as every-
one knows from the University's
recent tuition hikes, the funds
for the educational institutions
where this research is done have
been slashed dramatically in
recent years.
Michigan State University is
one of the universities expected
to give research input into plant
operations. And yet the fund-
ing for MSU's research program
came from a $50-million federal
grant. Now, I understand that the
state couldn't possibly match that
sort of donation, especially while
it's running an $800-million bud-
get deficit. But please, at the very
least, get your hand out of the
cookie jar.
Please, Jennifer, don't address
the media and try to make it
sound like this was all part of
your brilliant plan or that it had

anything to do with any attempt
to incentivize Michigan on the
state's part. In fact, Bruce Jam-
erson, CEO of Masacoma Corp.,
lists extensive forestry resources
as the reason he chose the state.
What the state needs to do is
recognize this serious problem.
This weekend CEOs from leading
technology companies addressed
the National Governors' Asso-
ciation, calling for more educated
workers in the technology sector.
If this plant is a sign of things to
come, and if we do want the state
to become, as the Governor puts
it, a leader in the enviro-tech
realm, we need to listen to what
companies are telling us.
So maybe instead of pretending
Michigan is on the road to suc-
cess, the state should stop cutting
funding where it needs it most
and take steps toward actually
achieving a new viable economy.
Riding lucky coattails isn't a
slap on the back for the state; it's
a slap in the face.
Kate Truesdell can be
reached at ketrueiumich.edu.

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