The Decline and Fall of the English Language

“Would you like any more coffee?” you ask.
“I’m good,” is the response. And no one blinks an eye.? Adjectives and adverbs are becoming interchangeable.? Or maybe indistinguishable.
“You promised to be here by noon and it’s now after two.” you say.
“My bad,” is the response. And no one shivers at the sinful syntax.

What has happened to the English language?? Although there have been changes over the centuries, they were evolutionary rather than revolutionary.? That is no longer so.? Google is now listed as a verb in that last bastion of language traditionalism, the Oxford English Dictionary.? Mind you, I am not saying that is wrong.? Brand names often become the generic term in common usage, such as Kleenex and Scotch tape, but it is rather rare to have that happen in the OED and never so quickly.? It is a sign of the times, although not a bad thing.? It is the rapidly progressing decay of proper English that appalls me.? It is not so much an evolving of, or even radical revolution in, the rules, but a total disregard for them.?? “Rules?? We don’ need no stinkin’ rules!”

If you have read any of my writings, you will know that there are times when I will use a sentence fragment, often in dialog.? Why?? Because we all do it in everyday speech.? In the same way, having a character answer a question with, “It is I” rather than the incorrect, “It’s me” would sound ridiculous.? I use the same chatty tone in my newspaper column and this blog as well.? Yet, I choose to do this to maintain a certain voice.? Know the rules before you break them.? Sadly, fewer people know the rules that they break on a habitual basis.

Texting has been no friend of correct spelling.? Knowing when “i” is before “e” is fast becoming an arcane ability.? In fact, my retired-school-teacher sister was told by one of her principals not to teach spelling at all because it was not on the standardized California tests, which were all that mattered to the school’s rating.? Yes, there is spell check, but will it know whether you meant to write there, their, or they’re?? Or, for that matter, whether or weather, write or wright?

When we come to examples like my first two, it gets worse.? “Me and him are going to the store.”? I cringe when I hear someone say that.? “It be cool.”? Ouch!? “I don’t got nothing.”? Yuck.? I could go on, but I’ve made my point.? I’m not saying that I’ve never made a mistake.? I am aware of two typos and a grammatical error in the printed version of Christmas Cracker (which I did correct in the Kindle version), but they bother me greatly.? If we could imbue the youth with a grammatical and syntactical? conscience then there might be hope.? I hate to say it, but I do not see much chance of that.

Maybe I should join the crowd,? Down with the tyranny of grammer and spelling rules!? Guy Fawkes lives! ?Texters of the world unite!? You have nothing to lose but your ability to spell and write a complete sentence!




11 thoughts on “The Decline and Fall of the English Language

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  3. I feel your pain! I too cringe when I hear or read bad grammar. I was raised by an elementary school teacher and an English professor whose PhD was from Harvard. They were both very particular about the way my sister & I spoke and wrote. I actually heard myself reply, “I’m good” to the query, “How are you?” a few days ago. I almost punched myself for it.

    • Every so often, I will use an adjective where I should use an adverb, but try to always immediately correct myself. Unfortunately, it often goes unnoticed. Since my mother did not finish high school and father had a fifth-grade education (yet had better grammar than most college-educated people I now encounter), it was their desire to learn and use proper English that has driven me.

  4. I don’t text, but I do understand the reasoning behind using abbreviations when communicating that way. It’s a kind of shorthand. However, errors of grammar and word usage errors in printed (and Kindle) books drive me nuts. There’s no excuse! Didn’t the author proofread her words? Yes, it’s hard to catch one’s own mistakes, but that’s what critique groups (and editors) are for. Their, they’re, and there; your and you’re; rein, rain, and reign — I’ve seen all those words used incorrectly in recent books and they made me cringe. Worse, they took my mind out of the story. Surely no author wants that!

    • We all use abbreviations, some of them even in scholarly writings (etc., et al., op. cit. and ibid. to name a few). The problem is when the ability to write a complete sentence without abbreviations is lost. I am on an online car forum and a new member wrote in text-eze (Will that be a new word for the O.E.D.?). Many of the words were deliberate (I hope) misspellings. I had trouble figuring out what he was saying. I was not alone and a few members advised him to write in common English. He became hostile, claiming we were all Luddites (although he did not use that exact term, but some texting version) and never returned.

      I do agree about properly editing a work before putting it in print or on Kindle. I am reminded of a cartoon I saw where an editor is sitting across from an author, telling him, “You have just disproved the theory that there is a good book inside every man.” It is an onerous task and one I hate, but necessary. Even after much effort, an occasional error does slip though. Fortunately, my wife does most of that yeoman’s duty for my books.

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  6. Being an educator, you know I am a stickler for correct grammar. I am NOT a ‘texter’ and don’t intend to start. Some of the worse to me are “I seen her at the store,” “I’m fixin’ to go,” “What you got?” I cringe at the sound and I have seen just as bad sometimes worse in writing. The recurrence in writing has been the singular/plural faux paus. For example, “Anyone may come to the party if they have a ride.” Anyone is singular, yet ‘they’ must have a ride.

    There have been a couple of books I read just recently during which time I was appalled at the kind and number of errors. Concentration was completely severed! Fortunately, so far I have not experienced such massiveness of error within our group. Some error, yes, but not to the extent it impedes understanding.

    I discovered errors in my first book that drive me nuts! I wish I could have it reprinted but do not know what that would involve cost wise. It is not on Kindle but needs to be. You mentioned being able to correct your Kindle version. Did you have to go back to your original publisher?

    Sorry, if I am too long winded. This is a touchy subject that needs a lot of attention! By the way, just subscribed for your new posts.

    • Thanks for your comments. While I do not text, I do email and have begun to tweet. Tweeting has been difficult because I would love to use great quotes that do not fit in 140 characters. At least I have time while sitting at my computer to reread my tweets and consider if they are properly written before sending. Speed as well as brevity are the two key elements of texting. Although I do love most technology, texting is not an aspect I embrace. Lest it seem like a solo “rant,” consider this quote from John Myhra’s article on this subject: “Although students are writing more than ever, they are writing with little to no depth, terrible grammar, and are abbreviating almost every word they write. Texting has negatively affected the way students write.”

      As to your question about editing a Kindle book, I am self-published. That is both for my printed copy as well as my Kindle. To correct my Kindle, I merely upload a corrected version. For the printed one, corrections cost me.

  7. Texters will lose their ability to spell anyway or already have, they have also lost their respect and ability to hold up the end of a conversation that isn’t riddles with abbreviations and non-sense. I’m not a texter, and that is why it’s so hard for me to construct a tweet that makes sense. Our world is changing and I’m afraid that those of us that agree with your article are sinking to the next link on the evolutionary ladder while these people come up it. Lets face it, no one can go anywhere anymore without people being wrapped up in their own worlds of texting or talking to someone who isn’t there. Maybe that movie one flew over the cukoos nest was more of a visionary movie than what it was. Look at society now, NOW vision them in hospital gowns…not much different than the movie eh???

    • There is a point in life where you take a stand, when, to quote Sir Paul, you say, “Well, I’ve had enough, I can’t put up with any more.” Or Network’s “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Although I have used LOL in an email or two, it is not a part of my spoken or non-online written vocabulary. However people actually say “OMG” and other such text abbreviations on a regular basis. OMG has become a word itself. I know that abbreviations such as ASAP, PDQ and SNAFU have been around for a long time and have used them myself at times, but they were few and far between before texting. Now the idea is to say or write with as little characters as possible, with no intent of creating something memorable. Speed over quality and content. I love our language, enjoy a well-turned phrase, a humorous twist and a witty pun. As long as I live and breathe I will continue to strive to write that way. Long live raconteuring!

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