A blog about grammar, language, and words ... by a former grammar snob.
A blog about me .... and the things that matter to me.
"The search for the mot juste is not a pedantic fad but a vital necessity. Words are our precision tools. Imprecision engenders ambiguity, and hours are wasted in removing verbal misunderstandings before the argument of substance can begin."
-- Anonymous Civil Servant
Spoken language is all about communication.There’s too much mumbling going on these days.Too much fast-talking.Too much abbreviated talk.Too much misuse and too much abuse.
Too many people walking around who can’t communicate and whose grammar and phonetics are . . . alright, I’ll say it . . . incorrect.Now, don’t get me wrong:I’m a baby boomer, a product of the ‘60s.So I appreciate a little hip talk, a little slang.I appreciate Woodstock … and Joe Cocker.
But this particular video “speaks” volumes about what’s wrong with the spoken English language.(Thankfully, the Beatles said it all much more succinctly.)
And thank heavens for captioned videos!
Well . . . .Maybe it was the mud.But what did he say?
The day after I finished my last blog entry -- all about misheard lyrics (a/k/a mondegeens), out of nowhere, I remembered a funny YouTube video I saw earlier this year. The song, "Ain't No Other Man," was written and performed by local girl, Christina Aguilera. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Pop Performance in 2007.
This fun version was cleverly mondegreened and interpreted by Annie Varner.
Sometimes it's really hard to understand what singers are singing. The melody may be catchy; in fact, the song may be one of your favorites. In my case, there are many: "Louie Louie" (the Kingsmen 1964), "Tumbling Dice" (Rolling Stones 1972), and "Like A Rolling Stone" (Bob Dylan 1965) are just a few of my favorite oldies but goodies with words I just can't grasp. Of course, thanks to the Internet, you need only perform a Google search ... like "tumbling dice lyrics," and POOF -- there are the lyrics!
In the "old days," we sometimes were lucky enough to discover that the songs' lyrics were part of the album's liner notes or were an insert to the LP. And even though the names of some of the musicians and groups over the years have been a bit kooky and slightly unconventional (Kinks, Grateful Dead, the Dramatics, Grandmaster Flash, Sting, Beastie Boys, and Earth Wind & Fire come to mind), at least I understood the meaning of the words in their names.
In addition to being lyrically challenged at times, I've encountered a similar language barrier in music lately, but this one pervades everyday conversation, too - mostly with generation Millenials (born generally 1977–1998). Many of these young adults are the offspring of us Baby Boomers. (Where did we go wrong?) Before I can even get to some of the music and lyrics they're listening to, just look at the names some producers and recording artist have given themselves.
Here's a hot one:
"Three 6 Mafia." That's okay for the name of a musical group, I guess. But here is some information about "Three 6 Mafia" (from billboard.com). Juicy J and DJ Paul are producers, as well as rappers, with the band. Other notable, transient Mafia affiliates include Crunchy Black, Gangsta Boo, Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca, La' Chat, Project Pat, Killa Klan Kaze, and Indo G. And according to the Billboard bio on this group, Juicy and Paul also were involved in several side projects -- Tear da Club Up Thugs, Hypnotize Camp Posse, and Da Headbussaz.
Huh? What language is this? I've always considered myself hip and open-minded. But PLEASE .... When you give yourself a stage name, kindly use English that I understand. I have a hard enough time with the lyrics!
The following is an excerpt from my article,Language on Independence Day, and a Linguist on Language Independence.
As we Americans commemorate Independence Day, July 4, 2008, let us not forget our linguistic independence -- American English versus British English -- and let us celebrate the revolution and the evolution of our wonderful language.The story of our Declaration of Linguistic Independence is the story of a toddler separating from its parent, retaining some of the old and creating some her own new and innovative ways of communicating.
In 1780, 16 years before he became president, John Adams was one of the first to call for independence in language.Adams asked Congress to set up an academy for "correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English language."As Adams declared, "English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the last or French is in the present age."
How many of you realize that French, in fact, was the global language in the 18th century?How many of you believe that English is now the global language?And which English is it:American English or British English?
Around the time that Adams made his prediction, a man whose name is now synonymous with dictionary was soon to become a one-man academic authority of American English.Noah Webster, an obscure Connecticut schoolmaster, recognized the possibilities of the new republic and of a new language.Webster was driven by his belief that a United States of America, no longer politically dependent on England, should become independent in language as well.In a sense, Webster declared linguistic war on the King's English.As he stated in his Dissertations on the English Language (1789):
The question now occurs; ought the Americans to retain these faults which produce innumerable inconveniences in the acquisition and use of the language, or ought they at once to reform these abuses, and introduce order and regularity into the orthography of the AMERICAN TONGUE? * ** As in independent nation, our honor requires us to have a system of our own, in language as well as government.Great Britain, whose children we are, and whose language we speak, should no longer be our standard; for the taste of her writers is already corrupted, and her language on the decline.
More than 200 years have passed since we declared our independence.Tens of thousands of new words and expressions have been absorbed into our American English.Some have come and gone.Just in the past 50 years, we have welcomed into our vocabulary couch potato, dotcommer, email, hottie, lounge lizard, soccer mom, slam dunk, sleazebag.We have given new meaning to bread, cat, chill, dig, drag, groove.And we mournfully mark the passing of such words as crebrity, ectasiate, leeftail, piladex, and the gasping-for-its-last-breath victrola.
So while you enjoy the fireworks and celebrate the historic day marking our independence and these great free United States of America, stop a moment and consider how different things might be if not for Americans like Noah Webster and Thomas Jefferson.Instead of sitting on the hood or trunk of your truck watching the fireworks, you could be sitting on the bonnet or boot of your lorry!
P.S. Be sure to watch A Capitol Fourth Live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Friday, July 4th, from 8:00 to 9:30 pm ET -- featuring music from Taylor Hicksand Huey Lewis & the News!