Friday Reflection: In memory of intelligible language

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This week’s Friday Reflection author preferred to stay anonymous. But the writer undoubtedly speaks for a lot of people in this condemnation of the direction of our language skills.

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I am glad to see on TV that the schools are going back to basics by again teaching readin’, ritin’ and rithmetic instead of some of the other non-essentials they are now teaching.

Having taught business studies for 35 years in TAFE, including computing from the beginning, starting with electronic typewriters and progressing to PCs, as well as Pitman shorthand, this included teaching English (Australian style). In 1981, when the Australian Macquarie Dictionary was first printed, we were instructed to make that our prescribed dictionary. I still have a copy of the first printing.

Apparently it is a bit too late for some of our younger adults who text all the time. They abbreviate so much (to save money) that we older citizens can’t understand what they are ‘talking’ about.

This slaughter of the English language has now gone into TV ads and commercials. One young lady starts her ad by saying “OMG” and then stops before she finishes the swear word she was going to say. It took me a while to work out what she meant by OMG – “Oh My God” (I think).

Another one that had me wondering was when the ad was saying when some program was going to be on – “Mon Wed and Tom”. I asked myself who Tom was. Then I realised it was “tomorrow” but with a capital letter?

Then, when using Word on the computer, many people rely on the Spellcheck program to fix their spelling. Yes, that’s good if you know how the word is supposed to be spelled (not spelt), which in a lot of cases it is not, because the program gives you American spelling – not Australian.

Instead of Pitman shorthand, we now have Texting Shorthand. Who’s going to compile a dictionary of that?

I have even seen spelling errors on ads printed on the back of buses.

Then there’s the most disrespectful error in the name of a main road. It is not Princess Highway (after Diana) but Princes Highway (one ‘s’) after a time when Prince Albert (actually he was known as Prince Edward, who abdicated) visited Australia when he was about 19 years old. I actually saw a road sign put up by the RMS with it spelled “Princess”. I wrote to them and they painted over the last ‘s’.

My recommendation is that the training of journalists and sales and advertising people should include a subject called Australian English.

Do you have examples of how our language is being ‘slaughtered’?

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30 Comments

Total Comments: 30
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    Oh how myself and daughter agree with your comments on the language – we cringe all the time, and spell check is more than annoying.
    Texting short forms are the pits, it’s like learning a new language. Hope they do get back to the ‘old ways’ and teach our children the correct way to not only write and spell words but also the correct way of saying them.

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      Hi Troubadour – probably more correct to say “Oh how my daughter and I agree…”

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      Oh how my daughter and I cringe.
      Texting (singular) is followed by “is” and not “are”

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      Sorry I didn’t finish My daughter and I.
      The use of ” myself” is correct only when you are referring to yourself as in I could do better myself.
      “To not only…. is a split infinitive. An infinitive is to write
      , to dance, to jump etc. The correct form would be ” not only to write and to spell.

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    We have lost the battle on ‘datum’ and ‘data’ with the latter more often than not these days followed by a singular noun (e.g. the “data supports the idea that..” – rather than “the data support the idea that..”).

    The deterioration of writing of the English language is not a such recent thing. I retired from teaching tertiary students (in a branch of science) more than a decade ago, but for at least three decades before that I found that at least half of final year students could not reliably write a complete sentence, and when I quizzed with, say, “what is the object of your sentence?” or “The sentence is missing a verb, what exactly did you want to say?” they seemed not to know what an object or a verb is. I found often that those who struggled most with spelling and with writing roughly grammatical language were those who had rarely read books for pleasure, entertainment or acquiring knowledge.

    I used to collect and distribute to students, collections of light hearted observations and guides to good (and bad) grammar. Some I would compile and write myself, but I think the following was purloined many years ago from somewhere else and perhaps slightly modified by me, so on both counts, apologies to whomever was the original author if it wasn’t me:

    HINTS FOR BETTER WRITING

    A preposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with.
    And a conjunction is a bad thing to begin a sentence with.
    Always write in complete sentences. Always.
    Check carefully for mispellings.
    Their is grate advantage in using a spell checker in yore word precessing program.
    Profanity has no place in writing, damn it!
    Remember to never split an infinitive.
    Don’t never use no double negatives noway.
    Make sure verb and subject agrees.
    Eschew obfuscation.
    Exercise abstinence from proclivity toward grandiloquent sesquipedalian verbalizations.
    Avoid cliches like the plague.
    I always try to avoid writing any of my material in the first person.
    Profread carefuly fro typographical errrors.
    DO NOT OVERCAPITALIZE.

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      Love it! Must have been an American author given the use of ‘z’ instead of ‘s’ (twice).

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      Very good Andy. I like your ironic recommendation for use of a the spell checker. Incorrect use of words that are spelled correctly is rampant. My local newspaper recently ran an article on loan parents which left me wondering where they were borrowed from. I guess proofreaders are a thing of the past.

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      I always found that students who had been taught Latin had a much better understanding of grammar.
      However I am pretty certain that a great many teachers of English now, have very little understanding of grammar themselves.

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    I agree. Have you noticed how the use of ‘an’ for something beginning with a vowel has started to disappear, even on ABC Radio? The use of ‘is’ and ‘are’ is getting oddly random too, eg. “There is a lot of cars on the road.” I’m not at all sure what the solution is, but I’d start by banning spellchecking on electronic devices…

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    I just loathe the word “gotten” – is it really a word? – it is lazy American speak – it should be “got” and I am also fed up with American words infiltrating our daily lives – cookies for biscuits, sidewalks for pavements – servo for petrol station – Grrrr!

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    My pet hate (apart from incorrect spelling) – the use of “I” instead of “me”, eg “The taxi took Pete and I to the airport”, instead of “The taxi took Pete and me to the airport” – why? because you don’t say “The taxi took I to the airport” you say “The taxi took me to the airport”. Therefore if you add another person you still use “me” not “I”.
    On the other hand, if you say “Pete and I went to the airport in a taxi” – that is correct because you say “I went to the airport in a taxi”. Conversely you don’t say “Pete and me went to the airport in a taxi” because you don’t say “Me went to the airport in a taxi.” I don’t know where this misuse originated but it irritates me every time I hear it – it sounds weird to my ears!

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      What about this one I just read, written by a journalist, on a website, “Her and her boyfriend were left absolutely gobsmacked when….”

      So If it had just been “her” would the journalist have written, “Her was left absolutely gobsmacked when…”?

      Of course not!! So…….

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      Dancer, you are a person after my own heart! I hear the word ‘I’ substituted for ‘me’ all the time, often, as you point out, when another person is mentioned too, as in: ‘She gave my sister and I some money’. I think this is the result of over-enthusiastic teaching. A child might say ‘Me and my sister went out’ and is immediately corrected with, ‘No, it should be ‘My sister and I’, which gives the impression that you should always use ‘I’ in cases where another person is mentioned.

      Actually, I don’t think that ‘Me and my sister went out’ is incorrect really. It is just a slight shortening of ‘Me and my sister, we went out’ where the subject is introduced and used emphatically. In English, ‘me’ is the emphatic form of ‘I’, as well as the object form. The French use this emphatic form all the time, as in ‘Moi, je ne peux pas aller’ (‘Me, I cannot go’).

      An example of another error I hear so often is: ‘Walking down the road, the house came into view’, as if it were the house that was walking down the road.

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      It may be the result of teaching (today?), Justsane, however I also hear people of my age (70ish) saying it too, and someone in her 50s. I have only noticed it over the past 2-3 years so I wonder if it has something to do with the “MeToo” movement – or perhaps people think using “me” sounds selfish as in “me, me, me” – it’s a mystery to me why language suddenly changes like this!

  6. 0
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    When did our CHILDREN become KIDS?

  7. 0
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    What a breath of fresh air to hear these comments; it is a pity that the so-called investigative journalists that we see on television should have to pass a genuine English test. ce ya !!!

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    Slovenliness is the word. I’ve been horrified for years at the deterioration of language and grammatical standards. Are other languages suffering as much as English? I have a thought: everyone should learn the basics of Latin to provide a grounding in English, or French, Spanish, Italian. I wondered why at high school, but now appreciate the effort. And now we’re trying to eliminate gender definitive words, not to mention imagined racist terms. The world’s gone stupid….

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    I think language is a living thing which evolves over time as new words enter, old words go out of favour and some words change in meaning or spelling. Who uses the long form of bra. Who uses gay to mean an emotion rather than a sexual preference. ‘
    ‘Proper English’ has no value now except to us oldies. It’s gone the way of table manners, politeness and formal clothes…if they aren’t dead yet they are on life support. Trying to get back to the way it was is as futile as trying to revert back to pre calculator days for ‘rithmetic. The battle is lost, people don’t write letters anymore (which is just as well as the postal service sucks now) , they use Google instead of brainpower and texting in shorthand leaves them free to flit from one techno driven form of light entertainment to another with minimum down time.

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      Sorry ozirules – you should have written, “…no value except to we oldies”.

      This misuse of “us” is quite common and one of my (many) pet hates.

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      ozirules, you could at least use question marks where they’re required!

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      C’mon Pramagon, please use a capital o for Ozirules if you dont mind % {start of a sentence and a proper noun)… Rod63 I can only apologyse….I^ve been subjected to the constant attacks on my native tung for so long that I* ve dropped my standerds sumwot. On the subject of pet hates, my number one is using inferred when implied is correct and footy commentators describing a weak kick as laconic. Oh if onlee people were all purrfect like wot I am;

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      No, Rod63. Ozirules is correct, it should be “no value except to us oldies”. After all, you would say “It is of no value to us” NOT “It is no value to we”. Why should the word “oldies” on the end make any difference?

  10. 0
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    What if you’re lucky enough to own a Gaylook Hillman Minx?!

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