What's the good word?

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Pop culture has always influenced language, today it is the Internet

IN THE 1950s, purists frowned when American cartoonist Charles Schulz introduced the antithetical phrase 'good grief'. It made little sense and was an affront to the propah language. But, really, who cared? Today there's a Charles Schulz museum along with dvds of his animations and countless reissues of his most famous comic creation Peanuts. People across generations and cultures have loved Charlie Brown, even though they do not play baseball, have never been caught in a snowstorm, and would hate to venture out in boxer shorts. They identify with the loser in a zig-zag sweater. And good grief has come to stay. Purists frown at pop culture, only to grudge and make room. Consider Portuguese. The slangy version of the language spoken in Brazil and the former Portuguese colonies in Africa has been regarded unworthy of the language of Cames, 16th-century poet whose seafaring epic Os Lusiadas is often compared to Dante's Divine Comedy. It's another matter that Brazilian soaps are prime time staple in Portugal; Portuguese songs are redolent with Bossa Nova inflections.

Such considerations are beyond the reasoning of the purists mortified at Portuguese speaking countries (the purists will call them Lusophonic) agreeing to spell words the way they are pronounced--the Brazilian way. The first steps were taken this New Year's day. The change was inevitable. Brazil is the world's fifth most populous country and a more powerful cultural and economic force than its former colonizer. Against 190 million Brazilians, there are about 10.5 million Portuguese. On the Internet, this ratio is six to one.

A lot of business in Europe and the Americas is now over the Internet, where spelling is crucial. To be influential one must communicate in a language that is most accessible and most comprehensible--search engine optimized. A standardized language, one that is taught in schools of Brazil and other former Portuguese colonies such as Angola and Mozambique, is necessary to strengthen the influence of Portuguese in the Internet age. The chances are more people are likely to look up Otimo Sugarcane Farms in Rio on the net than Optimo Farms in Lisbon. The language of Cames must have the lilt of the Bossa Nova.

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