Tag Archives: truth

Brave New World of Language

Grammar Granny

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. – Doug Larson

I have a theory that the English language is changing. Well, I am probably not the only one but I have a theory why. Actually I think there are several reasons.

As a native English speaker speaking 70% of the time in a foreign language, I have found that once you get fluent enough to be generally understood, it isn’t easy to keep learning or correcting yourself. Most people get to a certain level of fluency and then stop learning. On top of that, it seems to me that the people who teach foreign languages – this was certainly true in the States when I was studying – are not native speakers of the language and there are subtleties of expression or pronunciation that just don’t get corrected. For example the English “V” is often taught here in Germany as equivalent to the English”W”, which gives us “wampires” and other such creatures.

Where it becomes most alarming to me is listening to non-native English speaking diplomats speak in English. They will be running along, mostly with abominable pronunciation and grammatical inaccuracies and false analogies and wrong use of metaphors and it doesn’t seem to bother anybody! In fact, clips of their speeches are replayed on television as if these people really know what they are talking about. I sit there and think, “what is he/she trying to say?” Out of that gobbledygook, I can hardly hear a sensible sentence. When other people who are non-native English speakers hear these people on television, they probably think that speaking like that is absolutely ok and they can do it, too.

On sharing networks like Facebook, incorrect grammar is rampant. Just this morning I saw “a song… that last a lifetime”. The teacher that really taught me grammar, Mr. Nichols – who impressed on us the idea of the “gentlemanly C” (you work as hard as you can and you still end up only getting a C) – would probably roll over in his grade. I suppose a lot of people just rely on spell check and figure it is ok.

In the movie “Cloud Atlas” they have the characters speak a kind of patois in approximately the year 2510 (100 years after the Fall). Guess what guys, it is already here!

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The Forest for the Trees

Acknowledging Knowledge

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

When I went away to college, I had very little education in music. Piano lessons, singing lessons and a very rudimentary harmony and form education. But otherwise I basically knew nothing. When the other students would talk about this recording and that recording, this piece and that piece, this singer or that singer, I would pretend I knew what they were talking about when in reality I had no clue. But rather than say, “No, I don’t actually know that. Tell me about it.” I would mumble, uh-huh and let them keep on talking.

When I went to grad school, I got a job checking the card catalogue against the new computer list. I happened to work back shelves and had the opportunity to listen to any opera I wanted and to get caught up on my educational lack so that I didn’t have to pretend any more.

In my old age I am more likely to admit I haven’t heard of something. I am more likely to say, “No, I haven’t heard about that. Tell me about it.” On the other hand, this morning I listened for 10 minutes to someone explaining to me directions to their place all the while pretending I knew what they were talking about and saying over and over again, uh-huh. Some things never change.

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