I’ve lived in many places – mostly English-speaking – and I’ve witnessed firsthand the obliteration of a language on many levels. There’s always a variation in how the language is pronounced and it is usually regional, having geographical boundaries influencing the language style. A lot of times, however, it’s an educational gap or difference that causes profound language distinction between certain groups of people. For example, my studies of French in France were much different than my studies of French in Montreal, Quebec and almost unparalleled by my studies of French in West Africa. In France, the rules are rigid and enforced in formal education. Naturally, languages slip within a household and regions have their own dialects despite the governance in Paris. In Canada, the language is well-governed as well, but strides have been made to somewhat separate the Canadian language from its mother tongue. Much of the vocabulary that would ordinarily sound like English words in French have been redefined into different, faux-French words in Canada. On the other hand, the French language in West Africa is so vastly different from France as a result of the colonization of uneducated, tribal people of various unrelated language backgrounds. Think of Jamaican English and it’s about the equivalent. So how does this show in English, too?
First of all, don’t ever make fun of a British accent until you realize just how silly Americans and Canadians sound. The British gave us English, so, theoretically, their way of speaking is correct. To them, we sound nasally, or so I’ve heard. But I feel like our structure in American English has become to relaxed. I’ve even argued with supposed English teachers at high schools and colleges that they had a rule wrong or a word wrong, etc. And, okay, it’s not pertinent to have every single subjunctive nailed and to know exactly how to start a proper sentence. I clearly don’t follow all of those rules – but that’s also part of creative license. And even when I speak… I didn’t even realize until recently some of the things I say wrong. I made corrections to many, but some are hard to correct because they’re a part of my regional dialect. For example, I never realized I say “on accident” and it should be “by accident”, but that’s a regional mistake. I say “still mill” instead of “steel mill” because I’m from Steel Country. I say “y’all” and shy away from “yons”, but it’s still incorrect. Yet I keep hearing the absolute worst forms of English when I pass through remote country or through cities and I begin to wonder what is becoming of the English language in America? I hear songs with words that aren’t even real, with conjugations that push the envelope in terms of “artistic license”, and I begin to think this form of media is becoming an educational system for the majority of the youth. Speaking of media, even today I read an article printed by the Plain Dealer and there was a blatant error in the first sentence. But here are a few things that I’ve learned that can be corrected easily, that are pet peeves, or that maybe you didn’t even realize:
1. My biggest pet peeve: “a lot” is TWO WORDS, folks! This falls in line with the “there, their, they’re”, “our, are”, “two, to, too”, and similar mistakes.
2. You can say you “dragged” something across the floor. Having “drug” it is something completely different.
3. You “should have gone” somewhere….NOT “WENT”.
4. Don’t end sentences with “at”, please. Like, ever.
5. Similar to the third example, “should have done”, NOT “DID”.
6. Oh, and it’s “should HAVE”, not “OF”.
7. Apostrophes in contractions replace the missing letter and don’t go anywhere else.
8. Dollar signs come BEFORE the number.
9. It’s “marshmallow” because it’s derived from a MALLOW plant. Don’t spell it with an “e”.
Those are some of the more blatant errors, but there are certainly many more. Less obvious ones that irk me are things like “I wish I WERE” being replaced by “WAS”. I guess, out of my pet peeves, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 represent the best how little people understand about their own language and how easily they go by sounds to regurgitate sentences. Think about it: If you were a foreigner and you saw the sentence “I should of went and drug him home cuz he drank alot.”… would you even know what that says? Probably not. I don’t think everyone needs to be an English major, but I think paying better attention to details will help preserve the integrity of American English and keep communication and education at more favorable levels across the board.