Tuesday, March 30, 2010

English As She Is Spoke...

“Good English I speak; no excuse for bad grammar, there is.” ... Yoda

Last night I was watching the 6:00 news, and I thought perhaps I was hearing things. The announcer said, "Would have went..." Did I hear him correctly? This morning I received an e-mail from someone at work, and the writer -- an intelligent person -- wrote, "Should of..." It makes my brain hurt when I read things like that. The English language is fluid and it's always changing, but there are certain grammatical rules that should apply, especially to folks in the professional broadcast business.

I'm not a writer, and sometimes I am guilty of using split infinitives, but it seems I am in good company.

"I don't care if he is made to go quickly, or to quickly go--but go he must!" ... George Bernard Shaw

"To boldly go where no man has gone before..." ... Gene Roddenberry

There are so many writing rules that I don't understand, because they don't make any sense. But the spoken word should flow, and it should follow the rules of grammar.  The way we speak says a lot about us.  I remember when I was a little girl my grandfather told me that we can go anywhere in society if our nails are clean, our buttons are polished and we speak properly.  Well, no one polishes buttons anymore, but speaking well is so important.

The other day there was a burglary in Vancouver, in a nice neighborhood with upscale houses.  The next-door neighbor was interviewed, and he said, "I seen the guy walking up the sidewalk, and then a few minutes later I seen him come out of the house..."

It hurt my brain.

Another tendency folks have is the misuse of "I" and "me""He gave the book to John and I."  Argh.  Weren't they listening in grade six English class?

When I read through the blogs, I am amazed at how many wonderful writers there are out there, and it's a joy to read something that is well-written.

You would never say, "Would have went..." ... would you?

28 comments:

DJan said...

No, Jo, I wouldn't have said that. I guess as I have gotten older I've gotten more accepting of what I think of as "colloquial" English. It drives me crazy, though, when someone misuses "less" and "fewer" as in "there are less people." Wrong! And the misuse of its and it's also drives me a little bonkers. If you cannot replace "it's" with "it is," then no apostrophe belongs. But then again, I'm much more mellow now that I used to be...

Jo said...

DJan, yes, the English language does change, but "would have went" just drives me bonkers. It actually does make my brain hurt. *heh* And I remember my grade six teacher telling us, "Chickens lay eggs, people lie down." It's a great mnemonic.

Bruce Coltin said...

When exactly was you ever mellow?

Stephen said...

The late, great William Safire had the following rules for writers:

Remember to never split an infinitive. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. Avoid clichés like the plague. And don’t overuse exclamation marks!!

Jo said...

Bruce, *heh* Oh, goodness, my brain hurts. :-)

Stephen, I love it! Thank you for the chuckle. "Avoid clichés like the plague."
:-)

Nancy said...

My writing sometimes takes liberties, I know. It helps with the flow to just write the way I'm thinking, but the spoken language should follow the rules. I guess we all have our bugaboos.

lakeviewer said...

It's a different world out there!

Jo said...

Nancy, you're a very good writer. Yours is one of the easier blogs to read because you write so naturally. I guess it's because you write the way you would speak.

Lakeviewer, oh, yes... :-)

Linda said...

And how about your and you're? Oops, I didn't have a complete sentence.

Principle and principal? We had a principal who would come to the 1st classes and tell the kids that he was their 'pal'!

Bad grammar hurts my brain too!

Jo said...

Linda, yes! And my, mine, and myself. And you know, I am reading more and more lately, where people writing incomplete sentences (such as I just did *heh*). I think it is one of those things that seem to be morphing into being acceptable.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

When we moved to Minnesota and would use some of the phrases that I grew up hearing (and knowing they were not grammatically correct), we opened ourselves to ridicule. The same people who would openly make fun of me would ask me "can you borrow me some money?". No, but I can loan you some money. That and saying they had previously "boughten" and item.
I guess bad grammer is not limited to any one area!

Single and Sane said...

We have local newscasters who insist on using the word busted in place of burst, as in "A water main busted..." or "Intruders busted into the house."

I just hope their former English teachers live outside our viewing area.

Dudette said...

haha. Now I'm paranoid about my writing. Although, after years of school and grad school papers, my blog is pretty much bad grammar and stream of conscious. With that noted, I am reading a new book now and finding errors. This drives me nutty! These people have editors for crying out loud.

KrippledWarrior said...

Me would like to learn you to write good. Me be a fraid you don't very much like I'm style. Me like skraw hats to keep the shaders offen my haed.
AYE YAM HOOKT ON FONEEX.

Alissa said...

I have to admit, even though I have a degree in English and even though I have earned my living as a professional writer there is still this complete disconnect between brain and keyboard.

True story: I once wrote my cousin an email about have won a writing contest, but in the email I typed that I had "one a writing contest." He called me out on this, of course. Just last night I was editing something where I found that I had typed another phonetically correct, but technically wrong word. Perhaps there is some name for this syndrome.

The Bug said...

My big pet peeve is using "then" when you should use "than." As in, "he is bigger then the other dogs." I see it ALL THE TIME. I even read it in one of magazines I subscribe to (to which I subscribe?). Arrrggghhh!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Oh, thank you, thank you for this. It makes my brain hurt, too, when I am forced to hear someone slaughter my native tongue. The examples you gave are the most common - the "me" and "I" issue is like nails on a blackboard to me. I suspect that some of them, such as "should of" result from sloppy pronunciation among adults resulting in kids learning improper usage. I'm surprised that this is prevalent in Canada, though. I was sure that your compatriots were far more eloquent than mine.

Meggie said...

I am forever grateful that I had a nagging mother, and grandmother, who both were positive sticklers for correct grammar.
In spite of our son saying he could not see the point in it all, once he went out into the world he realised it stood him in very good stead, among people he needed to impress.
I have probably made errors? Hope not!

Russell said...

I ain't got much time for them there people who don't talk right. Ain't they got no idea people do theirs' learn'n from listen'n to udders?

Editor's note: This comes from the mouth of the same person who sits at the end of the bar and has all those simple solutions to life's complicated problems. Don't ya know?! Heh!

the walking man said...

There are rules to language and usage of said language in verbal communication? Would have went to school longer had I known there were actually rules.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

But Jo, I so enjoy making English teachers snap.

Eternally Distracted said...

I often get emails from my Gran with spelling and grammar corrections for my blog, it makes her brain hurt too!

Here English is a second language for most, as a result I often have to speak in broken English... having a Greek partner doesn't help either... although both scenarios create wonderful 'lost in translation' moments!

Kimberly said...

I was visiting my grandmother at work one day about 16 years ago. She asked me about my test. I said "I was the onlyest one to make a 100". Another lady was present, Mrs. Ruth Wooley. Mrs. Wooley was a retired teacher and she said to me"that is the most atrocious grammar I have ever heard!" "You were the only one, onlyest is not a word" she said. I was embarassed & rightly put into my grammatical place. I haven't used that word in a sentence since. R.I.P Mrs. Wooley.

PinkPanthress said...

Terrible if even news-speaker, people on tv and other officials start talking like that. I think it is shear laziness! :(

An american friend once told me that this 'Should/Would/Could of' thing seems to be a problem with people who misheard it throughout their childhood, and did not get the part that it should be 'have' instead of 'of'.

She also told me after 4 years of online friendship, when I told her that I was not from an english speaking country, that she had thought that I was from the UK or Canada, because most of the times I use no shortenings as in "Can not" instead of "can't".
And for using 'archaic' words like aloof, spoke, whom and whose... :D

Mia said...

English grammar can vary widely in different parts of the world. Read this for a hundred examples

Americans use gotten as the past participle of get. Most of us would consider that bad grammar. And most British people can never use it properly when they try. But if you're American you'd think got as the past participle is bad grammar.

But would have went just isn't right. As far as I know everybody uses go/went/gone.

persiflage said...

How right you are. The increasing number of wrong grammar fills me with horror. It seems extraordinarily common for people to say 'Me and him went to see a film' as well as the example you quote of 'him and I'. There must be something about plural subjects and objects that confuses many people, and the ignorance about the difference between subject and object pronouns seems widespread.
My daughter used to say 'Me and Tracey did...' and I'd automatically say 'Tracey and I' but she still does it from time to time.
I have just been reading an autobiography of a well-known person who repeatedly described how she laid down, instead of 'lay down'. Evidently her editor did not pick it up.
It is one thing to accept the fact that language changes, but when the changes fudge and confuse meaning and clarity, then I think we should not accept the bad grammar.

Sue said...

Nope, nor would I have said "would of " gone.

heehee

But I sure see that a lot!

=)

Paula Slade said...

Me not know what to comment here! (He-he-he Jo - fooling with your brain :-D )