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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Apostolik April 02, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Hear, hear (. . . before somebody says, "here, here").
Charles Apostolik April 02, 2011 at 08:40 PM
OK. I can't resist mentioning one of my pet peeves -- something I've been noticing more and more recently, including from people who get paid for writing. Or should I say, "one of the things that bothers me most?" No, I shouldn't. Would that mean that this is one thing that bothers me, of all the things, of whatever kind, that exist? Or would I think I was saying that this is one example of a category of things that [plural] bother me? Undoubtedly the latter, so why not let the verb agree with its plural antecedent?
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) April 02, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Well, what is the thing which most bothers you?
Meg Dure April 03, 2011 at 01:39 AM
Charles, I remember back in the dark ages when using this exclamation in my column -- using here! Here! I got several letters to the editor correcting my mistake and explaining the origin of the expression, which is correctly "Hear! Hear!" . I learned so much as a newspaper woman from my slip-ups.
Count Raoul April 03, 2011 at 02:04 PM
I for one am making a comment, publically, knowing I run the risk of having my sentences scoured for errors, and I also risk being invited to diagram the darned thing ending up in a heap on my living room floor with a few commas left in my pocket. (note to readers, Microsoft Word underscored nothing within the previous sentence meaning.....?) Meg, I love your work. We all are guilty of much that you protest and it's nice to be reminded how important good grammer is for all.
Norma Patterson April 03, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Meg...Keep up the good work! Having spent more than three decades as a corporate editor, one of my pet peeves continues to be with those who INSIST on adding "s" to toward, forward and backward. Please, save the "s" for another word!
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) April 03, 2011 at 06:48 PM
You made only a minor error. Publicly has one "l," and "publically" isn't a word, though we did understand what you were saying. Meaning, to answer your question, don't trust Microsoft Word to correct your writing. Ask Meg.
Carole Yoho April 03, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Meg -- I wll always remember a friend saying "Bless your heart" when I had my heart surgery. This southern expression of sympathy touched me since my heart really needed blessing! A North Carolina friend recently explained that they also used it to cover criticism with politeness. "Mary Jane has the ugliest shoes, well, bless her heart". I don't remember using it that way. Do I want to remember us at our best, have I forgotten, or have I just been away from Georgia for too long?
Sandi Linsteadt April 04, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Meg, I'm with you--fingernails on a chalkboard. Another one that bothers me is a contraction of one of our favorite Southernisms: you all. So often it's incorrectly spelled ya'll. I'm not sure which two words are being contracted here!
Merrie April 05, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Many thanks for this! I also cringe when "a" in place of "an" is used before a word beginning with a vowel. Being a northerner living here for many years, I try to tolerate and enjoy the differences in speech. However, I have a hard time with incorrect English, even if it is endemic to the culture. I am terribly annoyed by "hisself." I hear it MUCH more frequently than "himself." Is this primarily a Southernism?
Trudy Bradley April 05, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Another (!) pet peeve....and this one happens too often with people who are paid to use correct grammar, such as those highly touted news anchors. That peeve is saying, "A nother"....I have looked in several dictionaries and have yet to find the word "nother." Meg, I too had wonderful English teachers who drilled us on correct English language usage, so I'm with you in cringing when I hear or read some of the misuage of it....especially from those who should know better. Local colloquialisms are what make any language colorful and fun...let's recognize them as such and use them appropriately.
Nancy Wojteczko April 08, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Meg, well stated! My biggest problem with misuse of the verb rules is "I seen him yesterday" Oh my, it is all I can do to not correct someone who makes that mistake. My father, God rest his soul, would occasionally say that and I would stop him immediately and say "SEE, SAW, SEEN!" I loved him so much but could not let that go by. Love your writing!
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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