Thursday, September 5, 2013

Where in the World did the English go?

No, not the English people, the language. In case you haven't noticed, it's gone. It has been replaced by a new, simplified approximation of what used to be called English. Oddly enough, even those who should know better are at fault for slowly and insidiously displacing the language Congress almost made mandatory. Listen to the national news tonight on any of the three traditional broadcast networks, or to Fox news, if you are one of the folks anxiously awaiting news of Armageddon, to hear what I'm writing about.

Listening to television broadcasters and weather announcers must drive English teachers crazy. Listen carefully to your local weather forecast and see if you don't smile at least once, and not about the weather.

When a teaser recently came up about a television premier to be broadcast later in the evening, the announcer said quite breathlessly, “Tonight, at nine, the long awaited reveal!” Reveal? Reveal is now a noun. In English it used to be called a revelation. How about pronunciation? No one says "for" unless they're talking about numbers. It's now “fur.” Or, is it “fir.” Brian Williams of NBC used to say it constantly, as in “We don't know what that is fir...” Brian was not alone. CBS's Scott Paley says it the same way, and so does Dianne Sawyer at ABC. In fact, to hear someone actually say “for” will ring in your ears. Rachel Maddow says it correctly, but everyone knows she's weird.

Are the English teachers the problem? Teachers are supposedly the guardians of linguistic communication, the arbiters of good diction and vocabulary, but they are the ones giving passing grades to the students who stumble out of their classrooms unable to communicate with anyone who has a high school diploma awarded before 1965. Unfortunately, teachers fall into the same cultural trap as every other consumer in their daily usage of the language, and the acceptable levels of the English language slide slowly into the whirlpool of diminishing effort to communicate.

If the acceptable bastardized verbiage is coming out of the mouths of people making big bucks, like actors and television personalities, why should anyone else be different? Country and Western singers are the worst arbiters of bad language. Many are college educated, but they make a fortune perpetuating bad grammar. If they don't have to speak it good, why should anyone else? [If this were an electronic medium, I'd stick a happy face “emoticon,” right here and everyone would know it is humor. No thought process involved, you wouldn't have to use your brain at all! Everyone would know when to smile, clap, cry, go to the bathroom, or whatever, and it is dictated by little graphic images.]

It's the media itself that corrupts the language. Social media panders to a common level of laziness and convenience that is like water flowing downhill.  Like the glaciers headed to eventual destruction in the sea, ain’t nobody gonna stop it. 

Aah, now we know where the English went. It went with Ferris Bueller when he took his day off. It hasn't come back yet, just traces of it floating around as teasers. Or was it Bill and Ted's Marvelous adventure?

Oh well, it just don't matter any more.


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