Good language in a book is a basic hygiene factor. At least for me, it sure is.When I say good language, I mean a polished one with impeccable grammar, without slang being thrown in. Yes, there can be a little bit of slang to add authenticity to cultures and people being talked about or for the sake of bringing in a conversational tone. But if the narration itself is liberally peppered with them, it irks me. Books by contemporary authors are beginning to have this trait.
The funniest thing about slang is that it features in places where no filling is required! Take this sentence for example - ‘I was like totally blown away!’ Was the ‘like’ required here? No, it wasn’t. And this is what irritates me. I also feel that extensive usage of slang comes in when you are unable to use the language that you have been taught, properly. The person who speaks/writes does not want to take the trouble to form sentences. So thoughts that form in their head just tumble out with scanty or no regard for structure and coherence.
Consider these -
‘Yesterday, I saw this news item and man! Like it totally knocked me out of my wits. I was like ‘What the hell is this’ and then my friend was like ‘Chill yaar’ and then I …’
Conversationally, this may be fine. But in a book? I feel it is not.
‘That damn thing cost me a freakin 1000 bucks.’
Okay, so you did think that it cost you a lot and you may say so too. Probably while talking to a friend or when you pass a note. But in a book? Well, I disagree.
Anything practiced professionally definitely deserves the respect due to it. When I scribble on bits of paper, I can do what I like. But when I have an audience, I have a responsibility. Maybe authors do it for the sake of giving a feel of the book being ‘current’ in every sense by depicting life, as it is today and language, as it is widely spoken today. But it steps down from the status of a book then. This is totally my take of course. For me, the joy of reading is lost when the writing doesn't preserve the beauty of the language. And a topper in the list of ‘killers of good language’ is unnecessary usage of slang.
My opinions are no different when it comes to talking. If I find somebody repeatedly using irritating slang in every sentence, I just feel like walking away from there.
I am sometimes concerned that books will increasingly start turning out this way. We already have a bandwagon of people who extensively speak this language. Maybe we will soon have an entire generation talking and writing in this ‘contemporary’ style, resulting in the English language that we know now being wiped out of the face of earth. It is a highly paranoiac thought but I do feel it may come to happen sometime.
But then, even Shakespearean English went out of trend to be replaced by what we currently speak and write. And maybe some insufferable prissy like me would have worried about it during those times too :)