Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cantankerous Curmudgeon

I realized today that I am turning into my grandfather. Grandpa Brian was always on the lookout for sloppy diction or grammar. At least I always thought he was on the look out for them. Now I tend to think that he didn't look out for them, they just felt like nails on a chalkboard to him. He couldn't help being cantankerous about them when he came across them.

I had tons of diction and grammar bugbears when I lived in South Africa and thought when I moved to a purely English speaking country (though I suppose that is a debatable point now with all the Latino immigrants), that I'd hear less sloppy diction and grammar.

Turns out I was wrong. If anything, the grammar and diction is worse in the US than it was in South Africa. Today I heard a radio ad for a "Winner sale". Turns out it was for a "winter sale". What is so difficult about pronouncing that "t"?

Americans seem to truly dislike the sound of the "t". For years I thought the talk show host was Sean Hannidy. I only realized he was a Hannity when I saw his name in print.

When my kids were tiny, I took great care to correct them whenever double "t's" turned into double "d's". This resulted in a very funny situation. Both kids became adamant that words like "middle" were actually pronounced "mittle". It was only when they learned to read that they believed me.

I think that I am going to hurt someone if I hear anyone say, "Lay it down here" or "I'll just lay down". Please learn to use verbs correctly!

From where does this saying, "I'll hit you upside the head" come? It's as bad as the South African one, "I'll hit you through the face.". At least I know that this is because Afrikaners translated directly from Afrikaans into English.

Not a day goes by that I don't see an egregious grammatical error in a respected newspaper or in a novel. Don't editors edit any more? What happened to style books?

I worry about this current generation. All too many teachers, both school and homeschool, appear to believe that grammar is a skill that children will learn through osmosis when they read books. I don't agree that this is so and anyway, unless these children are reading pre-1950 literature, I they don't have many good role models.

To this end, I truly believe that good, old fashioned grammar programs need to be reintroduced into the education of our children. I am currently learning grammar formally for the first time this year. The children and I are doing Jessie Wise's, First Language Lessons. Last week we started learning to diagram sentences. Homeschooling rocks. Moms get a way to learn subjects they wish they had as children.

4 comments:

Bettina Colonna Essert said...

Shez, I can't speak to how kids should learn grammer via osmosis but I can tell you about my personal experience with grammar and diagramming: We were 'taught' all of that in middle school, probably high school, too and though I passed my classes, I immediately forgot all of it until I took a course in college. For some reason it took hold and was interesting and more important then. I learned it in one semester and retained much of it. Osmosis, no. When the time is right? Yes. Like now, for you and your kids!

Michelle (the beartwinsmom) said...

Shez, You'd LOVE the book "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves". I can't remember the author, but now there's kids' books that do the same for grammar. I've seen them in the bookstore. I am so tempted to get them for my boys just because I am a grammar policewoman. :-)

Hugs, Michelle

Shez said...

Michelle,
I've been meaning to read that book for years. I think I should sit down and read it now.

Tina, I think timing is important, however, for some people the timing will never be right. I've been reading some papers that college students at ODU have been submitting. I've been totally horrified by the writing of these seniors who are studying communication. Most of it is so badly written that it is incomprehensible. They should have been taught how to write in school, before they reached university. Now they are graduating and still can't write. I'm particularly horrified that these kids are communication majors. they are unable to communicate using the written word.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Shez, I looked and looked at your picture, and I just can't see the "grandfather" in you! You're pretty young to be turning into a curmudgeon! :)

As for your post, although I understand your complaint, I have a different view. In a few lines, I believe that writing has to be directed with respect to purpose, style, and voice, and therefore, perfect grammar is not always what is called for. (And yes, I know, I just "used a preposition to end a sentence with," but even Will Shakespeare did that, and he was the greatest English writer ever according to my 9th grade English teacher). Really, Mark Twain would simply not be as entertaining if used perfect grammar and refused all colloquialisms and local color.
So there is a time and plae to learn the rules--and I agree with you on that part--but there is also a time and place to break them.

There is also a time and place to be somewhat tolerant of the differences in dialect from place to place. It is what makes the US so interesting. And as for the "mother country" of the "mother tongue," I am amazed at the differences between different localities only a few miles apart. I am afraid we are losing this all to standardization.