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THE MASSACRE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

5 April 2002

"Me and him rided our bikes and then we hided."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

There was a young girl (maybe 5 years old) whose mother had come in for an appointment with Dr. G. The little girl was exceptionally well behaved. One reason for her good behavior was that the Mom had brought a kid's tape player for her. They had been to the library and borrowed a child's taped story. A multi chapter story. The girl sat quietly on the couch in the waiting room for nearly an hour without making a sound, just listening to her tape.

I don't know the name of the story, or who wrote it, but I listened to six chapters of the book and by the time it came to an end, I was completely appalled.

I suppose that the idea was that the story was being told in the voice of a small child who had not yet mastered the English language, but watching this young girl listening in rapt attention to the many times that the narrator "hided" and the number of times that she talked about "me and him," it made me wonder how kids are expected to learn to speak properly.

Maybe they aren't.

Maybe this helps explain why grammatical errors are so commonplace that they have begun creeping into local news reports, as the newscasters (and presumably the writers) are younger and younger.

Maybe it helps explain why even many examples of the print media are riddled with grammatical errors.

I realize this sounds like I'm an old fogey...and I guess I am.

I don't know how things are now, but when I was going to grammar school, it was generally felt that Catholic schools gave a much more thorough foundation in English grammar and composition.

There were the endless, oh so boring, phonics drills. B says buh buh buh....D says duh duh duh...F says fffff ffff fffff... recited over and over and over again while Sister rapped out the rhythm with a ruler on the edge of her desk. I can still see the blue plasticized cards and the blue plasticized pointers we used to go through all the sounds of the alphabet. How I hated those drills (but I sure can sound out words like "cholecystectomy" well!)

And yes, we diagrammed sentences. We learned about subjects and verbs and objects and modifying words and phrases. (We probably also learned not to begin sentences or paragraphs with "And" or "But", but I don't really remember that part! (LOL) I call it my own stylistic quirk.)

We had spelling tests regularly.

We had regular trips to the school library and were encouraged to read. I was a voracious reader. The books available were generally well written books and the assigned books were classics. I am sure there are kids who read classics these days, but I'm wondering how many do it willingly, and how many get their knowledge of Dickens from movies like "Oliver!" or Poe from Vincent Price movies or Robert Lewis Stephenson from comic books.

In truth, I don't know what was going on over at the "public school" a block away back then, but I have always been grateful for having been given a very solid foundation in English and an appreciation for the language.

When school was out, my friend Stephen and I rided our bikes to the public library and me and him took out lots of books to read.

(God that was difficult to actually type!)

 

Quote of the Day

I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.

- Solomon Short,

 

One Year Ago
Busy about Many Things

Two Years Ago
Baubles, Bangles and Bigots


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