Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Let's Purge the Lexicon: Part II

Here are some more linguistic abuses I'd like to see excised from my life.

Alumni There is nothing wrong with this word in and of itself, but let's get something straight people...IT'S PLURAL!!! If I hear one more supposedly educated person proclaim proudly, 'I am an alumni of that school.' I'm going to scream. A single person, depending on their gender, is either an alumnus, or an alumna, or a member of the alumni, but unless your name is Sybil you alone are not an alumni.

Irregardless This is not a word in the English language. Irrespective, which is the word most people mean to use when they use irregardless, is a real word. Regardless is a real word. Irregardless is not. Both real words mean without regard for, or in spite of. Irregardless means you slept through most of your English classes.

I know these are rather tiny nits to pick, but it seems to me that the English language is under almost daily attack from pop culture, internet abbreviation, and the general 'dumbing down' of America that I see where ever I look. This country used to venerate the great minds, the Einsteins,the Hawkings, the Kissingers, because they inspired us to emulate them. We strove for enlightenment and knowledge. Today we venerate people with names like Simpson, Carrey, and Bush because they make us feel smarter. As an educator I try my best to promote good grammar, even though it technically isn't part of what I teach, but when I heard a colleague use the word irregardless the other day while addressing a bunch of students it gave me pause. I have seen papers turned in by college freshmen that would make a 6th grade teacher cringe, but I don't blame the internet, or television, or movies. I blame parents. My mother worked two jobs for many years when it was just my brother, she, and me, but she still found the time to work with us at home with flash cards on our vocabulary skills. My brother and I read way beyond our grade levels almost from kindergarten. And I never once heard the phrase, 'Me and my friend' come out of her mouth. Parents need to take an active role in their children's education. Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated and they need all the help they can get to make kids understand that what they hear on MTV, or the latest Adam Sandler epic isn't necessarily the correct way to speak. Know what I'm sayin', beeyotch?

Peace out,


Rosebuckle said...

I think it's the failure of the public school system. Neither of my parents ever did english homework with me (just some math flash cards)

My grammar came from reading lots of books & hearing correct english spoken at home & on TV. Reading was really my strongest influence.

Anonymous said...

i know flipping burgers builds charater, i did it enough in high school to pay for this over-priced summer christ camp...

justin said...

Some of your fundamental assumptions are wrong. "Irregardless" is a word, and the reason it is a word is because people use it as a word. It is the aggregate behaviour of innumerable individuals which create the language, not any centrally authoritative set of rules or dictionaries.

What you are observing is not so much that the English langauge is under attack, but that it is evolving, and that a number of vernacular strains are competing for cultural recognition. You might as well complain about the Romans not speaking latin.

Marius said...

I agree that the English language, for all of its thuggish eccentricities, is evolving as any living language should, but the introduction of new words and usages should not be an excuse for laziness. The contraction 'ain't', while found in most dictionaries these days, is still considered inappropriate and crude. Americans are viewed by the rest of the world as loud-mouthed vulgarians, and not without reason. I merely attempt to maintain what little grace there is left to our language, and I will not go gently into that crass night. (and just for the record, I tried to look up 'irregardless' just to make sure before I began my rant, to no avail)

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear!!!!! I hate the new pronounciation of the word "often" as well (the "t" is silent, folks!)!