Monday, December 8, 2008

Dumb and dumber

What's with the dumbing down of the English language by people who should know better? I make no apology for being a snob when it comes to the use of language, after many years of Undine Guiseppi I'm too petrified that her ghost would haunt me if I was otherwise. That's why I had so much trouble with the Red Cross launching a campaign using U instead of You as in this morning's paper. The people on that committee know better, I know a lot of them, believe me, none of them speak that way in "real life".

I find it rather condescending when those in authority or who know better attempt to be "ghetto" under the excuse of "getting the message out", fit in or some other stupidity. It's easy to make grammatical mistakes or the occasional poor construction, but the adoption of texting terms or bad grammar is just plain obnoxious. Colloquialisms have their place, no one is saying never use them but there should be a limit. It drives me crazy when people send me messages that read "can you pls tlk to ppl abt whatever". That's lazy, include the vowels, they're there for a reason. I

I think poor language is really a way to keep people oppressed. You can look down on them or treat them differently because they "don't know any better". It's a form of control. Think about it, who are the really successful people and I'm not talking about rappers who have more money than they know what with to do. Barack Obama is of mixed race heritage, he is extremely articulate with an extensive vocabulary and has not felt the need to resort to "down home" language. For that matter you don't hear Warren Buffet, Colin Powell, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Anil Ambani, Gordon Brown or any world leader using poor language. What do all of these men have in common? They're at the top of their game.

The dumbing down of the english language has been one of the greater crimes of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. As we continue to bastardise our language we create divisions within our society, not to mention cheapen ourselves. My friend 'Scene exclusively uses colloquial language in her blog; yes, I enjoy reading her. She's commenting on life Trinidadian, and using "local language" to underline her point, it's a clever use of satire.

Think of Sidney Poitier's character Mr. Thackeray in the 1967 movie 'To Sir with Love".


Wuzdescene said...

Oh my gosh .... I thought I was the only one ..... disturbed by the 'dumbing down of the English language' (as you so rightly put it ) ... cuz altho I blog in trini dialect ... I am very capable of speaking properly and writing properly ... I believe that there is a time and a place for everything ...

I too ... am always highly irritated ... when I get a text message or an email that I have to 'decode' ... and I suspect that things will only get worse! ... soon ... the majority of written pieces ... will consist of mainly acronyms .... sprinkled wit nuff words without vowels .... and topped up wit ah few scatterings of actual words!!!

.... and have you noticed ... that not only is English fading from the written word .... but it's fading from the spoken word too ... cuz you know how many times I hear people say .... 'OMG!' ... instead of the actual words 'Oh my Gosh!' ... or 'TTYL' instead of 'talk to you later' .... yep .... we even talking dat shit now!

It is, no doubt ... a new, very annoying era ... and some will call us 'old school' ... while some will simply say ‘get wit de program’!

Jumbie said...

The poor grammar is displayed from the top... think para-dig-me, arrestses, etc so what do you expect from the masses?

I have a whole section of my blog dedicated to English Language (click on the language label and you will see what I mean).

I was taught Queen's English since primary school, and while my teachers were not Undine Guiseppi, they were proud of their grammar, syntax and even penmanship. The latter didn't take too much with me, my handwriting has often been compared with that found on prescriptions. They did use Undine's books though.

I'm comfortable enough in my status as a Grumpy Old Man, and with my ability to read, write and speak English that I have no hesitation correcting even the English teachers of the school I work in. If they don't like it - tough!

I'd started some time ago introducing a couple of deliberate errors in my blog, which I write daily unless something prevents me, and to date, I cannot recall even one instance of anyone pointing out the error to me.

I usually had to go correct the error several days after. It is a lonely life, I can tell you.

I am totally pissed off at texts, (a friend says fanx instead of thanks), at emails, etc that aren't in proper English. My close friend and I communicate in dialect, which might be the only exception, but ours is a special relationship built upon a slight madness in both of us. (^_^)

My standard reply is, " I'm sorry, I don't understand you. I speak English only I'm afraid."

MsNice said...

I agree with you but I'm also tremendously disturbed about the about the overuse of suspension points, dot dot dot

Anonymous said...

Wow, people who are concerned with real English... (apologies to MsNice, but I like suspension points)

I am an English teacher in Brazil (not Brazilian) and I struggle against things like "fanx" which to me is not acceptable from my students.

I have enjoyed your post, and I will follow up the blogs of your commenators out of interest.


lyricsman said...

Just two things. We don't have a dialect, that which we speak among ourselves has been recognised by linguists as a language of its own with rules and constructs of its own. The other thing is that the Standard English is evolving and even the grand old OED has begun to put modern digital 'language' into context. I think the bother is this, the appropriate use of the appropriate language a it relates to context...not so?

lyricsman said...

Sorry to belabour the point but one of the things that distinguishes us is our spoken expression so check the following link and begin to appreciate yourselves:

Marcus the Coffedude said...

You are either writing colloquially (well done, 'scene) or writing it properly. Yes it is evolving but things like U instead of You, nite instead of night and Boyz instead of Boys (argghh) is just damn annoying. I dont speak like that and my kids dont speak like that so it is insulting to be bombarded by ads and government officials who try to 'communicate' with us like that. The 'context' is mass communication versus niche communication (e.g.a blog) and I am part of the mass. Hats off to Jumbie for regularly poilicing the papers and exposing the more glaring examples.

Coffeewallah said...

"Scene, I feign deafness when people speak to me in text"ese". I'm embracing my inner old fogey.

Jumbie, I love your blog. You say what I'd like to sometimes. Mostly though even if there are errors in your blog, purposefully or otherwise, out of politeness I'd probably refrain from saying anything.

Ms Nice, thanks for the comment. Suspense dots have their uses and I confess, I use them.

Argentum, wow an English teacher in Brazil, now that must be interesting!

Lyrics, you've heard me harangue enough on this subject. I agree language is evolving and would die if it stopped but that's does not mean we should accept everything.

HPD said...

Wazzup? AA in da housssss... Donno wha ya speaking aboot my sista. Me speak pretty. I is Souf Efrikan en we spoke the English tale deliciously. Istruss bob.

I get what you mean though... I always feel I am limited because of my language limitations. I wish I could write in my accent but the spelling and language just doesn't work that way. I dumb it down because I have a limited range. But the stupid things people write in trying to be "clever" and not writing the whole word or sentence. Yeah... Limitations because English is a second language is one thing, but limitations because people are too lazy or "hip" to write properly - that's just stoopid. Nuff said. ;)

Kari said...

I agree w/you too.

I think it's important to be bi-lingual in Trini in the sense that one's able to slip between "proper" English and dialect according to situation/intention.

It doesn't help when officials try to dumb down their already questionable speech to slang. "Paradigm" was a golden oldie.

lyricsman: Belabour the point, honey. LOL. I love it! (Trying to get a shirt w/that on it.)

Gabriela said...

In Spanish we have the same situation, especially with the younger ones. I always use complete words and sentences, and I don't mind if this takes me longer when I send SMS messages.
Wallah, have you seen this?:
I've translated it to Spanish. I hope this translation may be published soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I have to agree with Coffeewallah, although I realise that languages evolve, but there is a subtle but distinct difference between evolution and being butchered.

btw, Coffeewallah, thanks for following my Tomus Arcanum.


Marcus the Coffedude said...

I must be the only old fogie who sends text messages written in full sentences. The only abbreviation I allow myself to use is LOL (it just doesn't have the same effect written out) and a smiley face here and there. I have typed text messages with abbreviations then went back and corrected all of the shortened versions before I sent it, even the punctuations. Costs more I know but my Newtown Boys teachers would roll in their graves if they caught me writing badly.

I will channel Obi Wan Kenobi a bit here: "So uncivilised!".

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