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English Pease

The English language presents its own set of challenges, even for native speakers.

Back in the early 1960’s, students at Athens High School were blessed with really good, dedicated teachers.  Our daily class schedules included at least an hour-long study of English-- sometimes referred to as Language Arts. We were drilled about the correct usage of the English language – which is indeed an art in itself. But these days, it’s becoming a lost art, and I cringe so often when I witness improper usage of language in verbal and written communication. It’s rampant!

 I worked for some 15 years as the lifestyle editor and columnist for a local newspaper. Much of that career was before computers took over many of the production tasks. I worked with a blue pencil, paper and my brain. And I confess many an error eluded my eye.  Like all editors, I strived for perfection. But often this pursuit ended up slapping me in the face with a huge typo on the printed page. Curses! I learned to get over it, and keep on trying to get it right.

 Watching the television news the other day, I was truly appalled when President Obama made a flagrant, but all too common, grammatical error. Addressing AN international audience in Chile he said, “A international incident…yadda yadda yadda.”

 Pa-leeeeze y’all – we know it should have been AN international… Legendary English teacher at AHS, Mrs. Ann Pickett, is turning over in her grave. I made a jestful post on Facebook about it and got scores of responses about others’ peeves. You see, we were all taught to speak and write properly, using our adjectives, adverbs and prepositions in correct syntax. We were dutifully corrected when our singular subjects were erroneously connected to plural verbs; likewise for mixing up nominative and objective case pronouns.

So let’s take a little English test together today. Here’s a few to consider: OOPS!!!! Of course I mean, here ARE a few to consider. (My reactions are within the parentheses. )

I’m going to go lay down. (as if one could actually pick up oneself  and place in bed)

Just between you and I…(surely you jest)

Where are you at? (Yipes!)

The black blouse goes good with my new jeans. (screeeech!)

Your not going to believe this…(Ever heard of a pronoun contraction???)

I’m done using the computer. (Sounds like the end of a good recipe)

I played good today…(you played a game called good??)

Me and him went to see a movie. (Ye gods and little fishes!)

Benefits are so important in their life. (My shattered nerves)

It’s the most fair proposal ever. (eeek!)

American Idol star and Academy and Grammy award winner Jennifer Hudson has a new song that's dominated by the title lyrics “where you at?” Spare me. She may look and sound good, but her speech could use some fine-tuning.  And I won’t even begin to touch the subject of Gangsta Rap. It’s just like a scratchy old vinyl record – gives me the heebie jeebies.

Perhaps the most common grammatical error I hear each day could be so easily corrected by adding the important LY onto an adjective to turn it into a proper adverb modifying a verb. Case in point: “Traffic is moving slow on the downtown connector.” Now we all KNOW it should be “Traffic is moving slowly…” Captain Herb on 11 Alive news each morning cures this common flaw by saying, “We have slow moving traffic on the downtown connector.”

What I do love though is – I mean ARE -- the many lovely Southern colloquialisms and regional dialect pronunciations that sweeten the tea of life here in Athens:

I’m fixin’ to go…

Dudn’t that just beat all…

This idn’t going to hurt one bit…

Well my mama says…

Well, I might could do it....

I could go on and on ‘til Doomsday.

 

You get the drift.  Nobody’s perfect, but we can surely give it a try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Howard April 09, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Meg, This is a wonderful article! I also struggle to keep my mouth shut when I hear some of these things! I'm happy to know that there are still a lot of us left who try to keep those wonderful English lessons "up front and personal"! Enjoy doing these articles! I know it's fun to be doing something that you love again, and I will enjoy reading your articles!
Masie Underwood April 09, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Meg....How wonderful to have your column online...Miss you and miss Athens.....Masie Underwood, Cartersville....P.S. To those of you who don't know me...Meg and I worked together at the Banner-Herald..I was editor of the Classic Scene Magazine and wrote the column Tete a Tete...Miss Athens, but love it here in Cartersville.
Charles Apostolik April 10, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Meg, I don't want to sound too pessimistic, but I suspect the "dark ages" are now, more than then, and too many of the people who used to know enough to point out such an error aren't here any longer.
Charles Apostolik April 10, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Those of you grammar freaks (and I use that designation affectionately) who are connected to Facebook may find this page interesting: "'Let's eat Grandma!' or, 'Let's eat, Grandma!' Punctuation saves lives." -- if you can ignore the chain-mail spam that it seems to attract.
Ellen Patton Anderson April 13, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Enjoyed your article so much, Meg. Thanks for encouraging proper grammar! Mrs. Pickett would be so proud of you.

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