It’s been a few days since I last pondered the meanderings of life and put the result of my journey through the quantum mystery of reality into words. Mostly, I’ve been observing the decline of the American version of the English language, both spoken and written flavors. I’ve been recalling my high school English teachers, a trio of dedicated dispensers of didactic discourse, each from a very different angle.
I’m not certain how much my tenth grade teacher taught me. I had too much of a crush on her to see beyond the cute blond hair, big blue eyes, short skirt so fashionable and acceptable in those days, and the shapely legs it contained.
The eleventh grade teacher presented a very different manifestation of my bumbling rite of passage through life, high school, and the English Language. In fact, when I made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to like her at all, and threw down the gauntlet of idiomatic challenge, she proceeded to retrieve said gauntlet and pulverize me with it, linguistically speaking. Determined creature that she was, no such inferior subset of the human species as a marble mouthed transplanted jersey boy was going to blemish her record. She would, and in fact, did, not only equip me with a king’s ransom in stylistic vocabulary, she formed the focal point of my determination to lose my uniquely ‘joisey’ idiomatic expression.
It’s difficult to explore the effect of my senior year mistress d’linguistic art, because I spent very little time actually in her classroom. To be sure, all I did was report for attendance and test days. I spent the rest of that hour in the teacher’s lounge working for the eleventh grade teacher. No, this woman’s influence was of a different order entirely. Where the junior year teacher equipped me with words to use, the senior year teacher’s contribution was in the art of putting the words together, and that occurred more by virtue of her being the sponsor of the forensic club and debate team than from any time spent in he classroom.
Now, on to the matter at hand. After the exemplary education I assumed everyone else was also receiving, it has come to my attention that sadly, this is not the case.
The other week I listened as a local television reporter uttered a simple six word sentence in which the first and last words were “you know”. I don’t even remember what the middle two words were. All that resounds even now was beginning a live report with the opening sentence of “You know blah blah you know.”
I expect that from jocks. Last night a one minute, thirty second interview with a local professional athlete contained the words “you know” eleven times in the jock’s answer.
But a reporter? What’s that all about? It just got me thinking of the number of individuals who put their face and voice in front of others who slaughter the spoken word! From the dynamic trainer I worked with who ended every bold, explosive instruction with a quiet, mousy, introverted and insecure “OK?” to the union representative who thinks every statement requires the use of an obscenity, and that after each expletive filled announcement, must proclaim “that’s what it’s all about” to all the “um’s”, “uh’s”, and imbecilic addition of the word “and” before the final digit of every year since 2000 AD, talking heads march on in their never-ending battle to stupidize the English language! Nor does the venue matter. Whether it’s NPR, PBS, ABC or FOX; a talk show, a news broadcast, a commentator, or a politician, the end result is the same. One is left with the impression that the spoken word was not a part of their education and training experience.
And it gets worse when you reduce the spoken word to the written word, and believe me – it is a sad reduction, indeed.
There was a time in our national development when speech, whether written or spoken, was both elegant and eloquent. When diction was a key to being understood, when February had two ‘R’s, and the year was not 20and11 (two thousand and eleven).
Reduce it all even further, and you are left with LOL, OMG, and C U L8R!
Where is ‘Enry ‘Iggins when you need him?