Friday, May 1, 2009

On Language

"Are you going out in THAT???"

I feel that way, sometimes, reading grammatically incorrect newspaper articles or blogs, or listening to newscasters and sportscaster mangle the language. Doesn't anybody care anymore? Are we living our lives so publicly now (says she, blogging away) that the boundary between formal prose and conversation and the lapses we allow in private has disappeared?

TBG asked me last night if grammar had really changed so that "come to the mall with Jim and I" is now acceptable. Our local paper has a terrible time with it's and its, and so do some of my favorite correspondents and bloggers. The Little Cuter and I go around correcting people all the time, and yes, we accept their critiques right back. How else can we improve?

I always thought that speaking well was the cornerstone of broadcast news. Walter Cronkite, Jim McKay, Susan Stamberg - these people could think on their feet. Because it's not only reading the copy, it's improvising when the need arises and doing it well. I don't want bad grammar interfering with my understanding as JFK's assasination is reported. Walter was showing us his real self that afternoon, and I am forever grateful that he was able to do it in complete, perfectly parsed sentences.

It's not about race or age or gender. I'm not talking about Ebonics or slang or whatever phrase is au courant. I'm talking about the basic rules which make things intelligible, which don't distract from the point being made. Rules which make the language sing.

I understand that language is fungible over time and that change is not always a bad thing. But just like my mother wouldn't let me out the front door with a ripped shirt, I have a hard time putting bad grammar out in public. People are watching, after all.

1 comment:

Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!