the current state of the English language

Some thoughts about English, prompted by having read a lot of student writing over the past few days.

I like the apostrophe -- and I sense that it probably will no longer exist in 50-80 years (except in the memories of English teachers like yours truly). Even my good students are routinely missing the apostrophe in possessives. And forget about the distinction between its and it's , which seems to slip by advertisers and newspaper proofreaders, too.

Suddenly this semester I got a lot of cases of "compliment" instead of "complement." Although this could be due to spelling or typo error, or an overzealous use of spell check (does Word know "complement"?), I suspect that many of my students would be hard pressed to give separate definitions for the two words. But it's not a word that they used to use --maybe it's on the SAT list, or the state high school graduation exam?

"Relay" -- as in, "as relayed by the author, the nineteenth century was a time of social change" or "Browning relayed the speaker's feelings through his punctuation". My students are using "relay" as a verb instead of almost any verb that's a synonym for say, speak, transmit, teach, convey, present, etc. (Frequently without the direct object that relay as a verb requires -- and, I think, without the meaning of "passed along as in a relay race" -- unless they think dead poets just slip batons of imagery to the reader and run off.) I'd love to know where this comes from -- I've been seeing it for several years.

on the horizon: conversate (v., to converse) -- I've been hearing it in heavy rotation hip-hop songs on the radio, so it's just a matter of time.