Loose Ends: Language lessons

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MEEKER I “Language sweetie, language,” the woman admonished her young son. I used to hear this same reminder when I was little. My grandmother and mother said these same words to me and my siblings regarding the use of proper English. They never had to tell us to stop using vulgar language, as most of the families of our friends, as well as the general public, were not allowed to swear at all. It simply was not tolerated. 

Taking it one step further, my grandmother’s religious upbringing (her father was a pastor) led her to scold us for “taking His name in vain.”

That included the slang phrase “Geez.”

The grownups felt free to use bad language in the company of other grownups, as well as in the privacy of their homes when children were not around. But the most foul of the four-letter words seems to have become one of the most commonly accepted words today. Our increasing dependency on social media has brought us almost to the brink of mass miscommunication. 

While teenagers have always relied on finding ways to communicate with each other by using slang words that will confuse most adults, they seem to last for only a short time. As the English language has gone through a major transformation with our reliance on social media, the rules in both writing and speaking proper English have been forgotten.

Verbs take the place of nouns. Adjectives and adverbs often swap places and dangling participles topple the traditional form of sentence construction. One commercial for a well-known pizza proprietor names the entire dining experience as “pizza-ing.” The old-fashioned way to say it is “eating pizza.” The advertiser’s hope is that the commercial is clever enough to make our collective mouths water. The use of a noun for a verb to garner more attention in the area of tourism has also become a trend. The advertiser of one high end resort replaced the word “fishing” with the word “trouting.” Somehow I don’t think either change works at all. 

Newspaper editors or English teachers in my day would never consider that acceptable. We already use one noun as a verb interchangeably. When someone refers to all their years of schooling they refer to action on the part of both the teachers and students. Likewise if someone tells you they have been schooled, you have not taken an action. Someone else has taught you a lesson. It might pay for all us all to truly listen when we hear “language, sweetie, language.


By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times

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