Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why Can't The English Teach Their Children How to Speak?


English is the language spoken (usually very poorly) around the world.  But there are some countries where English should be spoken and written properly.  (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Eastern Canada.)  It's the national language of India and Pakistan but you could not tell this from the language spoken or written there.   While in London and Southampton for long periods I was determined to develop a true British accent.  The problem was that not one person there spoke like the other one.  Finally, I gave up and decided that speaking properly with a decent mid-western-USA accent was far better than ANY of those terrible dialects.  Even if it does have slight Texas twang.  :-)

What set me off this time was the phrase from a fairly popular blog, "Is the data flat?"  Data are plural, Datum is singular.  So the sentence should read, "Are the data flat?"  It could read, "Is the data structure flat?" or "Is the structure of the data flat?"  Agenda (plural) is a list of agendum (singular).  

The other one drives me nuts is when someone says, "Me and Bob are going to lunch.  Want to go?"  It should be, "Bob and I are going to lunch."  What about where someone uses "were" for "we're" going to do something.  Or ending a sentence in a preposition as in, "Where are you going to?"  when  "Where are you going?" is sufficient.  Or the infamous, "What did you do that for?"   The most egregious of all, "You need to get aholt of the data."  OUCH!  Get a hold on the data?  Even that is terrible.  

What about the spoken variety?  Such as using "git" rather than "get."  Or using "caint" (rhymes with paint) for "can't", which rhymes with pant.  Or saying, "O'tel" rather than "Hotel".   I had the ignomious displeasure of listening to a linguist preach today - but she used the most terrible English when I KNOW that she fully knows how to speak properly - she was either heavily influenced by her congregation or her surrounding growing up and just never got out of improper usage of the English language.  (She speaks and writes about 10 or 12 languages fairly  fluently.)

I'm reminded every day of the musical "My Fair Lady" in which Professor Higgins asks the eternal question, "What can't the English teach their children how to speak?"  If you haven't seen it, check it out of your local DVD store and at least watch the opening song by Rex Harrison.  "The way an Englishman speaks absolutely classifies him  From the moment an Englishman speaks he makes some other Englishman despise him."  (Also from the movie and that song.) 

So brush up on your English by reading something of quality.  Shakespeare comes to mind.  Or the bible.  Get out of the code books for a while.  STOP reading all of the infernal, terrible documentation produced by someone in another country - or even in our own English-speaking countries when it was written by some dim-witted, High School Dropouts!


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