Saturday, August 29, 2009

English As She Is Spoke...

The Letter Writer Surprised
Gabriel Metsu
1662

Languages change all the time, they morph into something different as new words become part of the lexicon, and old words are no longer used. Anyone reading Shakespeare requires a translation sheet to understand many of the things he is saying. Shakespeare wrote in English, but it's really a foreign language to the English used today. The world's greatest writer needs a translator for readers in the 21st Century. The same thing applies to the King James version of the Bible. It was published in 1611, in a language that became obscure in later centuries.

However, the composition of English has not changed all that much, and I always laugh when I read bad English. Oh, I know I shouldn't. I'm not a writer, so I am probably as guilty as anyone. But there are a few obvious things that can change the context completely. The other day I was reading our little local newspaper, and it reported how a man who had been guilty of a string of bank robberies had "...turned himself into the police." What a neat trick. Once he had turned himself into the police, did he arrest himself?

One grammatical mistake that everyone seems to make, and is like fingernails on a blackboard to my ears, is the misuse of "I" and "me". Hardly anyone ever gets it right. What were they doing during grade six grammar lessons, day-dreaming and gazing out the window?

Correct: "Charley and I took the book from the librarian."

Incorrect: "The Librarian gave the book to Charley and I."

Omigoodness...

Correct: "The librarian gave the book to Charley and me".

Another of my favorites, that grates on me so much, I can hardly type it -- "Would have went..." Have you noticed how many people use that now? I have heard TV newscasters use that expression.

Correct: "I went."

Incorrect: "I should have went."

Shudder...

Correct: "I should have gone."

My grandfather always used to say that people can fit into any society if their shoes are shined, their buttons are polished, and they speak well. No one polishes their buttons anymore, but everyone with a basic elementary school education should know the rules of grammar. Poor grammar will give you away faster than anything. Even in the age of instant texting, where a complete sentence would be something like, "How R U?" folks should still know how to speak properly.

Ain't that right...!?

25 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I should have gone to the library to turn in that book that Charley and me borrowed before they forced us to turn ourselves over to the police.

Jo said...

Charles ... *Hah!*

Jennifer D said...

Jo you are sooo right!

I am one of THOSE... always getting it wrong. Yes.. I was daydreaming I guess! :)

Can you explain WHY? please.

I mean the Charley and I/me lesson.

Kathryn said...

I so agree with you! I wrote recently about my intolerance of poorly written blogs. I can't say i laugh, you're kinder than am i.

I know i'm not perfect with grammar. I didn't have it in school & really struggled with the concepts in college. But i did get the basics in place.

"A picture of hubby and i."

"Her and her husband."

"We went to there house."

"We went to they're house."

These things make me cringe & when i read a blog that consistently uses poor English i have trouble continuing to read their work. I try to tell myself the merits of what they are saying, but i tend to get caught up in the language.

Another pet peeve of mine - paragraphs! I struggle to read a page with no paragraph breaks. It feels incomprehensible & overwhelming to me. But i do believe part of that is the type of dyslexia with which i struggle.

Thanks for visiting me & the reminder of Calamine Lotion. I will have to get some to keep on hand.

Jo said...

Jennifer, I think people use the "I" option consciously, because they think they are being grammatically correct. "Me" sounds wrong sometimes, but it is correct.

Kathryn, LOL...! Those are all the things that make me cringe too. "There", "they're" and "their" are always so mixed up. And when people use apostrophes for plural as well as possessive it makes me crazy. Argh.

HAPPY IN NEVADA said...

Happy Sunday morning! Well, first I think your eyes missed this:

Shakespear wrote in English, but it's really a foreign language

I think you need an 'e' on Shakespear (notice if there was a space placed 'just right', it could be shake spear or shakes pear - that just caught my eye).

Anyway, I dislike the use of irregardless (even hard for me to type that one) - it's regardless.

Recurrence is correct; reocurrence is not - another one that irritates me.

Using 'bring' when it should be 'take' - that's a real aggravation to me, and I'm hearing that used much too often lately - even on television where I'd think the speech-writers wouldn't make that mistake.

Of course the written words 'glare out' at you such as using 'your' for you're, and there for 'their'.

Another one is when there's a proper name like Jones, and someone makes it show ownership by writing Jone's instead of Jones'.

Still another one is when the word is already plural and to show possessive-plural, they put the s', instead of the 's.

When people don't use the hyphen correctly such as writing email, when it's e-mail (or website, when it's web-site).

Frankly, I love the old English; I love Shakespeare's writings, and have the complete collection of his published works that my grandmother gave me before she died.

......now I wonder if my Grandma turned into an angel when she died, or a 'grammar'......

"Gidai" (in case you didn't get that, it's good day with an Australian accent - the best I can do).

Jo said...

Diane...! Thank you! I have corrected it. It is now Shakespeare. Typo, typo, typo. :-) I envy people who can read Shakespeare sans translation. I am not one of those people. *sigh* I do love to hear it spoken, however. Then I can understand it. And yes, "bring" and "take". Oh, goodness.

HAPPY IN NEVADA said...

Oh yes, and one of the easiest ways to remember if it should be 'me' or 'I':

Read or say the sentence this way:

John and I went to the store.
John went to the store.
I went to the store.

Reading a compound sentence in this way, helps a person to quickly determine which is correct.

The ball bounced first to Tom, and then to me.

The ball bounced first to Tom.
The ball bounced then to me.

In that case 'me' is correct.

Now I realize you already know the right way to use the 'me' and 'I', but if you ever have to help a friend who gets confused at times, this is the best way to quickly create a mnemonic for them.

Now I, me, you, those, they, we, us, and my husband have to get our little bodies away from the computers and out the door before it gets any later (it's time to join friends for some fun at the Colorado river today).

Jo said...

Diane, "It's time to join friends for some fun at the Colorado river today."

Take me with you! Take me with you! :-)

Kathryn said...

LOL H.I.N. -

I got into it with my husband recently over "regardless" & "irregardless." He uses both & i had to question it. (Tho, to be honest i waited a long time to do so for i was afraid i'd sound cranky.)

He did give me some long explanation on his justification on the usage. I didn't follow the argument, nor could i repeat it. He has an I.Q. somewhere in the 160s range. However, his explanation DID sound reasonable. And we did find "irregardless" in the dictionary, tho it was listed as "non-standard."

I still find it irritating, & i doubt i will cease to do so!

ivan said...

Some radio announcers are the worst.
Whenever I hear them say "between you and I" and then two sentences full of malapropisms, I not only grate, but wonder about the announcer's intelligence and how he got the job in the first place.

Land of shimp said...

I'm not much of a grammarian. Unless someone is committing grievous offenses against the English language, I'm unlikely to take note. I'm sure I leave participles dangling, and infinitives split left and right.

Mostly it saddens me when I see how poorly most of my son's friends write. He does well, in part because I paid for extra tutoring for him. Expression via the written word was not one of the areas of focus at his school. He went to a public school in a fairly affluent neighborhood, but structure and grammar were only lightly touched upon.

Still, when he was seven he dropped an F-bomb in front of me. I barely reacted other than to tell him that he was not allowed to swear until the day he could tell me the meaning of the word "superfluous". I told him I have nothing against swearing (and given enough provocation can indulge in it myself) but being able to express himself fully was the most important skill he could learn.

Fast forward a year and he said "ain't" in front of me, and I had a full scale meltdown. " Where did you hear that word? Where?!? We do not use that word. You didn't hear that word in this house, and you will not use it in my house! We do not speak like that! Do you understand me?"

It has been pointed out to me that I had the opposite reaction of most people, but I stick to my original argument.

When my son was twelve, I finally told him the meaning of the word superfluous, and then pointed out that he still shouldn't swear, as it upsets some people. He swears occasionally, but he never used "ain't" again. He said I frightened the...well, never mind that, let us just say I fully expressed my displeasure strongly enough at the time to leave a lasting impression.

Alissa said...

Not long ago I was reading a self-translated novel, and was confused about the word "outstanding" that kept showing up. It didn't seem to make sense in the context it was being used until I realized the author was using it in a literal sense (in a way it's never used by native speakers) to mean that the person in question stood out in the crowd.

Jennifer D said...

Thank you Happy in Nevada- Thats helps a lot.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I is so agreeing with you.

Mary Ellen said...

R U sayin' I ain't writin' rite? ;-)

I know, proper English seems to have disappeared in this day and age. However, I know I'm guilty of a few English faux pas myself from time to time. But I'm old so I can chalk it up to missing brain cells. ;-)

Allen said...

I get corrected all the time with my grammar. Both of my roomies are scrabble nuts.

Brenda said...

I actually love to hear people speak improperly. It cracks me up and I love to laugh!

lovelyprism said...

I'm with you on this one! It grates on my very last nerve when people use grammar incorrectly. The use of me and I seems to confuse a great many people! I'm so intolerant of these things that I even chat and text in complete sentences! How R U? is not part of my vocabulary.

robert said...

Good morning Jo,
what a wonderful entry this was to read.
In fact I use the 'King James' version of the English bible, a Luther version -unedited- from 1545 in German. This mostly, because me finds many times words with much more spirit then modern versions.
Was also thrilled to get a re-print of a 1848 fairy-tale book as a christmas present last year.
Many times me thinks that one should return to this kind of language.
Fair well into a wonderful new week ;)

The Bug said...

I'm the grammar police in my crowd - although I'm not an expert by any means (I am VERY fond of the comma). My latest pet peeve is using then instead of than - makes me crazy & I see it all the time!

Jo said...

Kathryn, "irregardless" and "regardless" sort of confuse me too. When in doubt, I just use "regardless". "Irregardless" is sort of like, "Yes, we have no bananas..." :-)

Ivan, well, just between you and I (*heh*) most of them are not really all that bright, anyway. :-)

Alane, LOL. When I was a little girl, one of my brothers used "ain't" at the dinner table once. My dad, who was a stickler for proper English, was trying to make a point not to use the word "ain't" and he accidentally gave the dinner table a karate chop while he was doing it. Much laugher ensued. My brother never used the word again. :-) We got a new dinner table.

Alissa, that reminds me of the old joke.

Question: "What's the definition of a farmer?"

Answer: "A man outstanding in his field."

LGS, *heh, heh*

Mary Ellen, I caught myself saying "...would have went" the other day, because it is contagious. I was horrified.

Allen, omigoodness, I love Scrabble. I usually win. :-)

Brenda, me too. Espcially when robbers turn themselves into the police. :-)

LovelyPrism, oh, yes I agree. I have a friend in England who sends me lengthy e-mails in shorthand text. Argh....

Robert, omigoodness, that fairy tale book must have been a wonderful gift...! There is nothing nicer than reading good writing, is there?

The Bug, oh, yes - then and than. Oh, that's another one I see a lot. Yes!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

My favorite is Minnesota speak.... I am going to the store, do you want to go with? My answer was always, "Go with...... what?" Another common one in Minnesota was "Will you borrow me some money?" Maybe I can loan you some money.......

Here in the states it is common to poke fun at the southern drawl and the misuse of words, but it would appear that those up north have their own grammatical errors to deal with. Don't you reckon?

PhilipH said...

Shakespeare 'invented' much of our language. I read Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare and he mentioned many words used by Shakespeare for the very first time. Cannot recall examples right now, but of course new words are 'invented' almost daily.

And the meanings of words are changing all the time. Take 'gay' as an example.

Sometimes words used improperly annoy me, such as 'less people are going to the cinema today' instead of 'fewer people.....'

There are many others, but I guess that as long as we get the gist of the message then it's not the end of the world.

A human kind of human said...

Oh Jo, you would really hate living in South Africa if correct use of the English language is so important to you. We have 11 official languages, Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. This palette of languages makes up what we speak in our rainbow nation but English is the "operational" language for everyday use. Many people speak what would be called "pidgin English" in some quarters as they have had very little schooling and if they did, they studies subjects such as Political Studies, Religion, etc. Minor things like grammar and spelling does not enter into it and I am convinced that in 50 of a 100 years from now, SA will have its own English language.