Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

June 2, 2013

“THE CHANGING ENGLISH LANGUAGE” BY: NEAL MURPHY

Filed under: Neal Murphy — Freddie Keel @ 5:43 am

 

When I was in both high school and college, the teaching of the English language was of great importance.  I was taught that certain axioms of the language would never change over time, such as:  never end a sentence with a preposition, do not use dangling participles, and never use double negatives either in speech or writing.

Over the years I have noticed that these “rules” seem not to apply any more.  I have seen some college graduates who break all of them as if they had never heard of them.  In addition, new words and phrases come about with each new generation, some of which do not make much sense.

“At the end of the day” is a relatively new phrase that every politician and pundit uses when arguing their position on an issue.   I always thought that the end of the day was bed time.

Another phrase in vogue is “I can’t wrap my mind (brain) around that”.  When I hear that, it conjures up an image of someone removing his brain and trying to wrap it around a package.  I think I understand what it means but the connotation bothers me.

The young folk have a saying very popular today about what they do to pass the time.  They say that they are “just hanging out”.  In my day that phrase usually meant that you were hanging out wet clothes on a clothes line to dry.  I suppose that since they have no chores at home, they have a lot of extra time on their hands, so they just “hang out” somewhere.

Another interesting phenomenon today is that the word “died” has been changed to “passed”.  No one seems to want to use the word of ultimate finality – died.  Now the person simply passes over into something else.

Have you noticed as I have that the word “actress” is no longer used to refer to a female actor?  Used to be a male actor was an “actor” while his female counterpart was an “actress”.  Now the word “actor’ refers to both sexes.  I suppose the women’s liberation movement had something to do with this.

Speaking of ending a sentence with a preposition, I hear this one every day by supposedly educated people, “Where is he at?”  If a teacher in my day heard you use that sentence you might find yourself writing on the chalkboard after school.

Another word used routinely today is the word “ain’t” which is a contraction for am not.  My dictionary says about the word, “Its use in English is subject to harsh criticism”.  Every time I hear someone use that word I cringe just a little bit.  Do teachers not instruct against the use of this word in schools today?

The incorrect use of the word  “seen” is another example of poor grammar.  “I seen him yesterday” seems to be quite acceptable in today’s society.  Some folk appear to confuse the use of  the words “see”, “saw”, and “seen”, being present, past and future tenses.

The use of  “double negatives” is also quite common.  I was taught that you never combine two negatives in one sentence.  Examples:  “I don’t want to go nowhere”.  Or, “We don’t need no education”.  Sorry, teachers, the message must not be getting through.

One hears something like this quite frequently, “I was woken up at three in the morning by the tornado.”  Some people seem to confuse the word for “I waked up”, or “I was awakened from a deep sleep.”

Along the same lines I hear something like, “I got stung by a bee and my hand swole up”.   Again, I flinch a little when I hear that one.

Finally, I was taught in all my English classes to never use a “dangling participle”.  I see and hear them used all the time today.  An example of the dangling participle would be, “Hiking the trail, the birds chirped loudly.”  It makes the reader think that the birds are hiking the trail.

I am not being critical here, just concerned that today’s schools are not teaching our English language with the same emphasis as seen in the past.  Our graduates are the poorer for it.  Now I am going somewhere to just “hang out” for a while.

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