Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Fluent Idiot

Not everyone appreciates my criticism of poor English, and that's OK. We all have different peeves.

But this sort of thing:

Actually happens. I've experienced it in both written and spoken situations. To have been understood I would have had to switch to not just simplified English, but fluent idiot.

In some cases it is teenagers. The ones who aren't quite in special ed classes, but are encouraged to take Hospitality, because their future involves - AT BEST - the service industry.

In other cases it is not teenagers. It is people who've been communicating long enough to have picked up better habits, but have chosen not to. I see you nodding your head. Now I'm going to offend some of you.

Do you know where this all begins?

It begins when baby language* (*so I am told) is still used in adulthood out of "fun". We obviously differ on what fun is, but that won't be the first time either.

Yesterday, I asked the rhetorical question:

"How the hell do you change an N to an M and lose other consonants completely, in the middle of a word?"

I am referring, of course to "sammich".

The person I said this to, told me it was from childhood, and considered cute. I know full well that adults say it in "fun" most of the time. Hence the question being rhetorical. And I agree that if a 2-year-old mispronounces something we all laugh, but don't we teach him the right way to say it? Or are we all learning English from 2-year-olds now? Isn't that a bit backwards?

Here are some other words we could simplify using the same rules:

Walkway becomes "wammy".

English becomes "emmish".

Hardcore becomes "hammer".

Much easier to say, and SO MUCH FUN.

Apparently laziness is involved too. Just how much effort is it to speak? I know...let's just point and grunt instead.

No, I'm not calling you an idiot if you select a few words that you prefer in a non-standard form, we'll call it a quirk. But if it is truly developed from the speech of children, what else are we going to allow from the same source?

What I'm asking is, where do you draw the line?

I read, on a friend's FB page yesterday, an entire thread in which not one single comment was in good English. It wasn't QUITE as bad as the image above, but it wasn't far off. They tell me that people don't bother writing in good English on things such as social media and text. Please don't tell me it's quickness. Abbreviations and not checking typos, are one thing, but this is actual errors of grammar and syntax. Word endings wrong, verbs in the wrong form, or completely missing. This is not speed. This is people writing as they talk.

It is sub-English. You can call it the language of the street and defend it, I'm sure somebody will. But where does it begin, how does it spread, and most importantly WHY? Why do you WANT to sound less intelligent? Did you watch the video I posted earlier in the week:

In this, it is suggested that being stupid, or playing stupid is trendy, sexy, popular, desirable. This is dangerous. I see no benefit to it at all.

Cute? There are times in humour when certain unusual formations serve a purpose. A literary device, I suppose. But cute? How is an adult talking like a child cute? What else do you consider cute in adults? Thumb-sucking, wearing diapers perhaps?

I will not dumb down my speech. I will not accept sub-English as valid. Language is complex because it needs to be precise. Communication, the backbone of human society, requires an ability for ideas to be expressed in a way that they will be understood correctly. It has nothing to do with elitism - some of the most complex and sophisticated languages on this planet today are spoken by small tribal groups far from modern society. (Read: Through The Language Glass by Guy Deutscher). Nor is it too much to expect anyone to speak ONE language fluently. In most parts of the world speaking more than one language is the norm, and speaking 4 or more languages is common.

We're not referring to slang here. Whatever your feelings are about slang, it's a separate issue. Slang words or terms replace standard words or terms. They don't mangle them. Words like "cool" are slang. Terms like "bang to rights" are slang. Within slang itself are rules, grammar, syntax. Phrases such as "I done did it" is non-standard English, not slang. It breaks the rules.

Dialect is another thing altogether. The correct verb ending for the verb "to say" in the first person, is say - "I say". In some dialects this is changed to "I says". This is non-standard English, but it's not WRONG, not if you speak that dialect. It is wrong if you don't speak that dialect, but that isn't usually an issue that arises. People don't normally suddenly pull words from the dialect of others. This is not slang either. Dialect is that grey area where new languages sometimes arise. Many European languages began as dialects of Latin.

Sub-English is not slang, nor is it dialect. It is non-standard English for no valid reason. Laziness? Poor upbringing? Trend? Think it's funny? Whatever. It makes you sound stupid. Why do you want to sound stupid?


I give up.

1 comment:

  1. I've also commented about this subject. Using poor English just makes one appear stupid. Here's part of a Foamy rant from four years ago (I agree with him).

    "Also on the list: the word 'bling'. What (expletive) came up with this term to describe an expensive lifestyle? I don't care if it was added to the Oxford Dictionary, it's not a word to me. If you ever come across someone who uses the phrase 'bling bling' to describe something, get the (expletive) away from that person. It's an idiotic term used by idiotic people not familiar with the word 'lavish'."