Have you noticed how the details of every book go like this: ‘Book title, 246+xix pp.’ ? However, in no place will you ever find ‘pp’ expanded. I have always tried to figure out what it meant – Google does not give satisfying answers (maybe I’m bad at googling). Printed pages? most likely, but how am I to know? Is it such common knowledge that everyone knows about it and I have my own deficient childhood to blame? If it is something simple, why won’t people expand the blessed acronym?
If you will notice this is not peculiar to the book publishing industry. There seems to be an explosion of ‘specialist words’ – things that only those in the hallowed circles of extremely specialised knowledge have access to them. It is not that there are no substitutes that everyone understands: it is just that some words become so ingrained that their usage is unconscious. Speaking to anyone outside your professional circles freely has become completely impossible. In fact, our capacity to communicate our entire experience to another person has almost completely disappeared. We always have a part of our lives (sometimes called ‘work’) that you cannot share with anyone else, even though it occupies most of our time. Most conversations with more than 3 people eventually degenerates into politician-sportsman-actor bashing.
Whoever thought that English would tend to homogenize cultures got it wrong, or atleast underestimated the power of division of labor to recreate a Babel using English itself. Forget about variants like Hinglish or Kanglish, you have Compglish, Mathglish, Bioglish and people speaking a particular dialect find it extremely hard to understand what the other speaks, and realises too late that a particular joke will fall flat simply because the others don’t speak your language. It may not be long before speakers of different language become an endogamous (bet you need to google that up!) group and split into different species simply because they are more comfortable with their own kind.
The rate at which this ‘speciation’ is happening is amazing: a couple of generations ago, father and son could have arguments because they shared a vocabulary. Forget arguments, nowadays it is almost impossible for our parents to have a decent conversation with us. Earlier there was very little need for people to know another language unless they left their country. Nowadays, you need to learn two or three languages just to get out of the 12 standard, and by the time you are done with a PhD, the only person understanding your humor will be you.
Will it be possible for people to empathise more with others? Will there come a day when it will be impossible to share your lived experience with another human being? How will human bonds endure such restrictions in shared experience, possibly limiting shared experiences to common biological functions? You already notice houses are no longer common areas – there is my room, your room and everybody tacitly respects it, probably after a few embarrassments. We are already replacing humaneness with etiquette. Our notions of forward movement seem to ultimately lead us to ultimate loneliness even in the midst of a crowd. Who cares? after all, Facebook is always there.