Splitting Hairs

Posted: September 4, 2015 in Misuse of Words, Opinion
Tags: ,


Is wanting The English language to be spoken and written correctly being pedantic? Am I being over fussy by wanting to hear children pronouncing their “h’s” at the beginning of words, their “g’s” at the end of words and “th” as it is meant to be not as “ff”?

Please feel free to comment if you think I am wrong because I sometimes have my doubts. I occasionally think I take the whole thing a little too seriously and, as the majority of people don’t seem to care, I wonder whether I should or not.

I was brought up to speak correctly. Not the Queen’s English with the plum in the mouth, just to pronounce words as they were intended to be pronounced. My mother would immediately pounce if she heard any dropped “h’s” or missed “g’s”, it wasn’t right in her eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents weren’t middle or upper class people, they were solidly working class, they just had values which appear to be disappearing nowadays.

Failure to enunciate correctly would be put down to laziness, which is almost certainly the case. It is easier to mispronounce a word if the mispronunciation shortens the word or makes it easier to say.

Of course swearing is also a lazy way of stressing a point, but it generally does get the point across and I can see a use, in certain circumstances, for profanity. After all, swear words, ordinary words, boring words and wonderful words are all just a collection of letters taken from the alphabet and arranged in a certain order. Who decides which words are acceptable in company and which are not? Who, in the past, sat down and decided they liked one particular combination of letters but not another? Without being too graphic about it I can think of perfectly acceptable four letter words which, when you rearrange the letters, become unacceptable four letter words. Why?

There are many examples of acceptable English expressions or questions which, in actual fact, are very good examples of how English can be used incorrectly. I am not going to go into minute detail on this subject but here are a few examples.

In a football match: “The referee’s shown him a second yellow card.”
(Wrong because, as far as I know, the referee only carries ONE yellow card, so how can he show a second?) Obviously the expression should be that the referee has shown the player the yellow card for the second time.

About anybody who gives his all: “He/she always gives 150%.”
(Wrong because it is physically impossible to give more than 100%. We don’t have more than 100%).

On the birth of a second child: “He has become a father again.”
(Wrong. He became a father on the birth of his first child, he didn’t then stop being a father until the birth of his second child. So if he was already a father he can’t become one again.)

There are many, many more examples of how we have become lazy in our use of the English language and, what is disappointing about this laziness, is that it occurs much more than it ever used to in the press and on television. The media, who are supposed to set the right example for our children, actually contribute more to badly spoken English than anybody else.

I have covered this, to a point, in a previous blog so won’t go over it again. Suffice to say that it is sad that the media which reaches the most children does the least to educate them, (generally).

I suppose with the easy access to internet and the amount of TV channels available I am being too naive to expect that everybody will behave responsibly and think about the effect on our children, but I live in hope!

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