You say Grammar Nazi like it’s a bad thing. Weird Al Yancovic has just released his most recent album. To promote it, he has also released 8 music videos of the new songs in 8 days, including one sung to the tune of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Not a parody of that song, it’s named Word Crimes, and contains lots of examples of what OCD word-nerds like me, rail about.
And so, I almost swooned when I read a recent post about it. Written by a female English teacher, from south-east England, she had all kinds of strange questions and objections. With regards to the English language: Why are there rules? Why is one way correct, and all the other ways wrong? Why is the pronunciation and usage of the south-east area of England the accepted norm? That’s Classist! We all manage to communicate. English is an evolving language.
Where to start? Where to start??! If there are no rules, then in that direction lies anarchy and Babel. Nowhere, in English, is there the equivalent of L’Office de la Langue Francaise, which insists on what is and is not allowed within the language. However, like a newspaper style guide, there is an informal association of rather learned scholars, who have decided on the clearest and most accurate constructions and usages.
The speech of south-east England is the norm, because that’s where the Queen lives. If we’re going to speak the Queen’s English, then we should speak it as she does. We don’t need to use precisioneer grade language in all situations. It is often best to speak or write for the level of the audience, but in general, we should aspire to better usage, not be content to roll around in the gutter of the likes of exclusionary Cockney rhyming slang.
We don’t “all communicate.” We often barely manage to communicate. Many attempts are laughable, tear-inducing or just eye-rolling. English is indeed, an evolving language, but I would like the changes driven and guided more by intelligent scholars who have studied it, than by some pot-smoking dude with his name on his shirt – by those who know where it’s been, and where it should go. We’ve seen some examples from Bob the burger-flipper, and they are not for the better.
She complained that Weird Al’s humorous little rant was too “Prescriptive,” that is, insisting that one way was correct and all others were different levels of wrong. She felt that we should concentrate on “Descriptive” language, which allows people to be creative. We had Hippies. They didn’t work out.
Creative people are really not all that common. They are the occasional goat among a fieldful of sheep, some of who think they’re creative, when really, they are all baa-ing, just in different accents. You can be creative within the rules. Often, the rules show where creativity starts, but a bottle full of urine, with the Pope’s picture in it, isn’t creative “Art,” that’s adolescent scatology.
Would you like some “Descriptive” descriptions of most of these “creative” people??! Try Lazy, Iconoclastic, Inattentive, Incompetent, Uncaring, Rebellious, Entitled, Incomprehensible, and far too often, (Reverse) Classist.
They look down on education and proper usage, and insist that “they are as good as anybody else.” Maybe in providing lube jobs, or French nails, but Bubba, there are people who can use words as effectively as you can use a torque-wrench or a nail-buffer. These are the Bart Simpsons – underachievers, and proud of it.
Jeff Foxworthy admits the Southern U.S. accent is not the most sophisticated in the world, and you may be surprised when you get to Heaven, and St. Peter says, “Y’all git in the truck. We’s goin’ up the big house.” Maybe, but I’m betting against it. If you don’t get out much, and are satisfied with sounding like the rest of the redneck yokels in “yer holler”, or the “known to Police” denizens of your urban slum – that’s okay. I want to be able to efficiently and accurately communicate with English-speakers all over the country and around the world.
If this is the best that Our Miss Brooks offers to the formative and impressionable minds of her young students, then I truly worry for the future of our language, and our society. Drop your socks and grab your….dictionaries. Sound off – comprehensibly.