I am absolutely dismayed at the decline of the English language in this country. Just in case you think this is another anti-immigration diatribe, forget it. I, for one, love the variety of languages I hear on the Washington subway as I commute to and from work. No, I am talking about the abysmal use of English, written and spoken, but people who speak nothing else in many cases.
How much of it is due to poor education, and how much to just plain sloth, I do not know, but regardless of the reason, mangling of the language grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalk board (I think I’ve written that somewhere else, so it must be a chronic condition).
Here are some of the most egregious violations of just plain speech/writing:
Me, myself and I
A sentence that I have both heard and read goes as follows: “Myself and John are standing by to assist.” This is especially prevalent in government writing and speech, and I am at a loss as to how it came about. Myself is a form of the first person singular pronoun, used as an intensive, a reflexive or as a quasi-noun. The correct form of the forgoing sentence would be “John and I are standing by to assist,” with the rule being drop the other person and use just the first person singular pronoun. You would never say “Myself is standing by,” but rather “I am standing by.” So the correct way to do it is put the other person first and change am to are. Are you as proud of yourself as I am proud of myself for figuring that out.
Horton hears a Who, not a That
I have been told that it has become accepted English to use the word “that” instead of “who” in sentences such as “John is an agent that knows the importance of honesty.” Well, I don’t know who made that decision, but I didn’t get to vote, and I am a person who believes that it is important to use words correctly and in a manner that makes sense. As I read my dictionary, that when applied to persons is used to designate the person mentioned or understood, such as “that student is Mary,” but not, “Mary is a student that likes to read.” Now, I suppose it is probably technically not incorrect to use the latter form, but frankly it is grating to my ears.
“Farther” and “further,” words that in some senses mean the same, are another area where I can be a real nitpicker. “Further” can be used to represent greater distance or time, but in such cases it is more common to use “farther.” If you consider the following sentence, you can see my point – “I will go no farther to further my agenda.” No replace the first “farther” with its counterpart and read the sentence to yourself. See what I mean? Just does not sound right. Once, riding the Metro, I saw an advertising sign that basically said “We aim to help families get further down the road.” Now, while that sentence is technically correct, it bothered me until the sign was finally replaced with a grammatically correct, but equally inane slogan.
People, there is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking correct English. It avoids misunderstandings and just sounds better. Please!??
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial