English in America…

I just read the news brief on the Earthquake in Pakistan. It was an 8.2 – big quake.  In order to lend credence to the story the reporter quoted several local people, basically eye witnesses.  She said that one “texted” her.  I would expect that a journalist would have at least a rudimentary command of the language she was writing; putting this in print cheapens her as a reporter and certainly sends an interesting message from her editor, who ever would allow this to appear in print must be a real intellectual and linguistic pigmy.

I have had a problem with this word since I heard three people in a television commercial for a cellular company use the word “texted.”  The conversation went something like this…

“He tex ed me…”

“Nuh uh… Shu up…”

“Yuh huh… he di it…”

“Nuh uh…  Shu up…”

“No he di int…”

“Yuh Huh he di it”… “he tex ed me.”

There was an adult involved in this conversation.  Honest.  She was the one that through the firs tex ed bomb.

I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t slept through the decade; I had to prove to myself that this word did not exist so I went to my favorite authority “Dictionary.com” and entered the word “texted”.  It did not exist.  I did check other sources; there was a conspicuous absence of the word “Texted”.

There is a fundamental problem with using this extremely sloppy vernacular; I think is shows a lack of education or more correctly as basic public education.  In addition I think it shows a basic disrespect for our language in general.  The lack of verbal skill in our children is appalling.  We attempt to provide a decent education in our schools and this is what they learn. 

It’s the same as dropping the “T” in many words; like “fas’” instead of fast, or “bes’” instead of best.  Some claim its part of their culture, some think it’s cute, and some believe it to be part of their identity with certain ethnic groups.  I listened to an entire hour of this slop yesterday and became so angry that I now refuse to watch any program associated with these two cooks.  They also used “ya’ll” every other word.  I didn’t care who ya’ll was I wanted no part of it ya’ll.  If you are attempting to build a wall along the Mason / Dixon line using a few words, this is one of the toppers; ya’ll.  There were several references to “dis” not “this” and “dat” not “that”, “sompin” not “something”.  I could go on but I think you understand.  These people wonder why they are so isolated from the rest of the us and why we look down on them as ignorant.

It was as though I was listening to an air-head teenagers’ in conversation overusing the word “LIKE”: Like I go like OK, then like she goes like OK, then like we both like go like OK, OK?  I tried counting the “like” in a conversation between three teenage girls.  I lost count somewhere over 100… 

As I became sensitized to the dropped “T” and the over use of the word “like”, I have discovered other idioms that are now prevalent in our language.  I first heard them on the east coast, mostly in New York City, but then it seems to have leaked out into our heartland and now to the west coast.  I refer to the over emphasis of the contractions: “Di Int” as in “No He Di Int” instead of didn’t; there’s the “pain ed” and this applied to any past-tense word ending in “ed” that can easily be separated to emphasize ignorance.

We have other phrases that are equally troubling: “Do you see what I mean?”, “do you see what I’m saying”, “I’ll tell you what…”, and my favorite “I fixin ta, pardner”.

Sitting at table in a nice restaurant waiting for service is an adventure as well.  The server meanders up and asks “Can I get you guys something?”  I don’t mind this too much when I’m with my male friends but I’m really old fashioned; I married a woman.  I take offense at her being called a guy.  After the meal the question is “How was it?”  How was what: the conversation, silverware, plates, service?  To what do you refer?  “Why the food…” is the response.  I usually respond with, “my complements to the hash slinger” or “my steak still had whip marks where the jockey was beating it.”

As a lover of this language and all the fun it can provide, I refuse to allow these colloquialisms to creep into my usage, and I insist that anyone with whom I converse use our common accepted language.  After all, the first step to effective communication is a common language.  This is where the fun begins.

I was in a restaurant in Los Angles for breakfast.  The server came to my table to take my order.  I ordered the number 7 which included eggs.  The server then asked how I’d like my eggs cooked.”  I responded… That would be great if the chef would cook my eggs… I hate raw eggs.”  This confused the server, completely.  OK, I was being a snob, but the point is if you don’t know how to ask the question you must be prepared for any kind of answer.  Misunderstandings start with a poorly phrased question.  “Honey, do these jeans make my ass look fat?” “No sweetheart, it’s not the jeans…”  Phrasing the question properly avoids these types of disasters.

We shorten and abbreviate phrases for instance 24/7.  Anyone familiar with simple arithmetic knows that the result is 4.42857 but the intended meaning is 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  How would I know this unless I was American and versed in the colloquial English shorthand?

Our elected officials have taken up the banner to poor speech and embarked on further slander of our language.  Almost every one of these intellectual giants talks about “sosh security.”  This is supposed to be Social Security I think, but the devaluation of this retirement fund instigated the abbreviation of the name so I guess “sosh Security is appropriate.  If they continue we can call it “Soc Sec.”

If we are truly going to recapture our place in the world economy we need to speak as clearly and eloquently as possible using words that people from other countries can not only recognize but understand.  I believe this slovenly speech is indicative of our general disrespect for us and our country.  Our sloppy use of the language speaks volumes to some one that has spent countless hours learning it.  As long as we allow this disrespect to continue we will slide further into the guttural and ghetto-speak and it will eventually separate us from the rest of the world.  No other country on the planet tolerates the misuse of their native tongue like the Americans.  We slang everything and expect the world to adapt to our poorly chosen verbiage and usages.

If people want employment expecting them to relate to each other and the customers is imperative.  “What do you want…” from a clerk is rude.  May I help you is more appropriate but you’ll rarely hear that in a store today.  The basic ability to convey ideas comes from a basic knowledge and command of the language.  Yes, English is a difficult language to master but the only way to become conversant is to use it and use it correctly.  Education is the key.  Our teachers must be in command of the language and the classroom.  I recently heard an interview with a teacher who “teached her kids a good as she could…”  How did she receive a credential for teaching with language skills like this?  How did she graduate college with a fundamental lake of language skills?  This is not an isolated instance.  Listen to any broadcast, television or radio, and enjoy the slander of our language.  It is colloquial English certainly but if these entertainers are our example we are in big trouble.  I won’t even start on sports figures.  How most of these people graduated from college is a puzzlement.  They should return their degrees from embarrassment.

Since I’ve opened up Pandora’s Box with this missive, I expect you English majors to critique these pages for grammar and structure.  Go ahead, I welcome it.  It is after all how I learn.

I’ll do more gooder nex time.