Friday, 13 May 2016

Rant

Every morning I wake up and say my mantra.  I tell myself English is  evolving, changing, adapting as it always has, and that there are more important things in life then getting upset over grammatical errors and malapropisms... and then I get onto the internet.  These days everyone is a writer, an author, a communicator with the written word, and no credentials are needed.  Websites, articles, blogs, memes created on some meme generator site by people who don't know when to use your/you're  or lie/lay leave me ready to put some whisky in my morning tea.  And don't get me started about the phrase 'could care less'.

I know, I know, I should take a chill pill. Get off the internet.   Even more than grammatical errors I am pulling my hair out over malapropisms.  The internet abounds with them and the more they are written and shared around and read by others the more they will be perpetuated.   And I tell myself it doesn't matter but that little voice pops up and says 'words matter', 'words have meaning' and I believe this.  I believe that effective communication involves accurately saying what you mean.  But we live in a time and a culture that likes ideas and the gist of things and what you have to say is more important than how you say it.  Perhaps that is sometimes true.  We don't need flowery or poetic language for everything but I will still argue for accuracy. 

And yet, the meanings of words do change over time and we all seem to survive that.  Sometimes they actually take on the very opposite meaning to what they original meant.  Sometimes we make one word good enough when we used to insist on two, as in further and farther.  The distinction between the two is becoming redundant and I see the point in that.  In fact any time I pull some hair out over a malapropism it's not that I don't know what the writer is trying to say.  The fact that I do know is part of what allows me to see that the wrong word has been used.  It's just that I love words and I love accuracy.  I love to understand distinctions and finer points. I have to admit that my own use of the language is not flawless though, and so I am trying to learn to let go in the same way that I have almost let go of caring how people wield a knife and fork.  If it gets the food into your mouth in a generally non-repulsive way isn't that all that matters?  The point of table manners is to be considerate of your dining companions' level of squeamishness and not to make threatening gestures with a knife.  I'd much rather my companion employ strange cutlery tricks than chew with mouth open.


Favourite Poem from Childhood

I eat  my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on my knife. 

-Anonymous

And so, I am trying to nit-pick less about language use and tell myself that I am glad, really glad, that English is not a dead language and remind myself Shakespeare would never have gotten past the Language Police.  Now, I'm off to put some whisky in my tea.

13 comments:

  1. I totally understand your frustrations Shawna ... what about lose and loose!!! LOL!!!

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    1. Yes, along with chose and choose. Admittedly I might write or type the wrong one sometimes but if someone is consistently using the wrong one it suggests lack of understanding the meaning of them rather than a typo. It has just occurred to me that we don't have a problem with nose and noose. ;-)

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  2. I share your feelings on this, I find it really annoying that people are so sloppy when it comes to language. These days I see a lot of so-called professionals, journalists writing for a newspaper, with a really bad grasp of their native language (this also applies to Finnish, my native language) and coming up with sentences that hardly make sense. I know none of us have perfect language skills, but I think we should expect professional writers to be a bit more accurate.
    When it comes to English, I find it interesting (as an EFL teacher) that so many native speakers make similar mistakes (e.g. using the apostrophy with plurals, 'use to' instead of 'used to' etc.). Of course I know that I probably make some grammar mistakes in my native language, too, but I still find it fascinating that everybody seems to have the same issues (and some of them are the same that non-native struggle with).

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    1. I think it's interesting to consider that if the same errors frequently occur then perhaps it's something about the language that is no longer serving us. English is bursting with non-intuitive spellings and pronunciations and grammar rules do change over time as we collectively decide they are not needed. I enjoyed a book called Bad English written by Ammon Shea and highly recommend it.

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  4. Down here, we put an "e" in whiskey. As a fellow-pedant, I also get irritated daily by misuse of language and grammar. Fortunately, many who can't write ultimately migrate to YouTube where they make videos...

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    1. Whiskey is Irish and Whisky is Scottish. You've got more Irish in New York ;-)
      On Youtube they must speak and that is it's own sort of disaster!

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  5. Oh dear, whiskey in the morning is a dangerous road, do stop! :)))
    You are right about everything. I have rants like this from time to time too. With my limited knowledge of English, I see native speakers who don't hesitate to call themselves writers and make mistakes which I can catch with my not very keen eye. My eye used to be very keen once upon a time, and I worked for a publishing house for a few years. To the writers' defense, I can say that there are very gifted writers whose ideas are fresh and worth publishing, but they are simply weak when it comes to grammar. That is why there are proof-readers and editors, that is what they are for in the professional field. I suspect that the quality of writing went significantly down in newspapers as Tiina mentioned, because there is much less money in this industry these days, and many highly educated professionals left the field. The Internet is free, and when things are free, of course we will see all of it - both poor writing, but also great writing which we would otherwise not be able to read due to the highly competitive field of publishing...

    But then, like you with your peas, I know I am not perfect as well. My Russian, dare I say, is a bit better than my English. But don't get me started on other areas of life which millions of people mastered so much better than me - simply because it is a priority for them. A solid career, a clean house and a proper bank account, to begin with. :) Priorities...

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    1. A happy family and a fulfilling live. It looks like you've got those ones mastered. xoxo

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  6. :-D I hear you!!
    xo Jazzy Jack

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  7. People will make grammatical errors irregardless of it's intended audience. ;-)

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