Language Thoughts

Have you ever noticed that the English language is intrinsically weird? I've known this for a long time, but every now and again I am amazed at some of the oddities that come from speaking a language. I won't bore you with any details, but I will give an example.

I imagine you're familiar with tissues, a la the variety used for blowing one's nose when one doesn't feel well. If this is the case, then chances are you're also familiar with Kleenex brand tissues. I am aware of other brands, such as generic, generic, generic, and Puff's, but I only use Kleenex, and so in my life that is the only brand that really matters.

You may be asking yourself, what on earth does this have to do with the English language? And I answer: it has everything to do with the English language.

Chalk it up to the times that we adopt name brands into our everyday vocabulary. And so, when I need to use I tissue, I ask someone for a Kleenex. It just works out that way, it's not a conscious decision I ever made. But here's the kicker: yesterday, I accidently pulled out two Kleenex tissues, and proceeded to state to my brother that I had done so. Here's what I said:

"Oops, I pulled out two Kleenexes--wait, is that right?"

You see, I didn't say two "tissues." Hence, I now view a Kleenex as a tissue entity. Even if I use a Puff's tissue, as I do on occasion, I still refer to it as a Kleenex. But for the English language, we have rules for pluralization of words. Knowing these rules, I immediately questioned what I had said. Should it be "kleenexes" or "Kleenices"? I honestly am left with no idea what the appropriate term would be. Neither of them sounds right, but the second one follows the rules of English (i.e. the plural of "index" is "indices").

I suppose this is the price we pay for commercial culture. When ads are everywhere, it's hard to escape it. Take my recent trip to the mall as an example. I went to park my car, and noticed that the parking spaces were striped funky. Instead of being yellow or white, they were green and blue. I at first thought this might mean it was reserved parking or something, but upon closer inspection discovered that it was an advertisement for Qwest.

The parking lot is a bit old, and the stripes are fading. Instead of paying money to have the area re-striped, the mall obviously decided that someone else should pay. And what better way to accomplish that than to use it as advertising space. It's brilliant. The stripes are apparent, and of an odd color, such that its out-of-the-ordinary nature catches your attention.

I wish I had thought of that.