When the American colonies were founded, just about every respectable citizen spoke the King's English, even the less-educated denizens of this burgeoning country. As our nation grew, emphasis on spelling, grammar, and sentence structure continued for hundreds of years. Students of bygone days diagrammed sentences, respected the written word, and were also taught subjects such as etiquette and elocution. Somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turn. What I'm talking about here is the sloppy, lazy style of language we’ve developed today in America. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about, taken from personal observation.
"Ain’t." Okay, we all use it when we’re goofing around, as in sports, "You ain’t gettin’ past me!, " or in casual use, "you ain’t kiddin." The problem arises when someone isn't joking around and they’re actually using the word to communicate in their daily lives, such as "The cable TV ain’t workin right!" How much harder is it to use the word isn't or aren't?
"Them.” A good example of this is when the word "those" should be used, but it is instead replaced with "them," i.e. "Them guys told me that there was free beer here." Both words have the same number of syllables. Its not any harder to use the proper word.
"Don't." I'm not sure how this started, but there are apparently some folks out there who have never been introduced to the word "doesn't." I hear phrases like, "He don't have enough money to buy a ticket.” It has apparently become easier to exclusively use “don't” rather than taking the time to remember when to use doesn’t.
"Seen." This one really grinds me. For example, Question:”You seen the Lions game last night?" Answer: "Yeah, I seen it". These hapless individuals can go their entire lifetime without ever using the word saw, unless they’re discussing the various methods of cutting wood.
"Borrow." When someone loans an item to you, they let you borrow it, or they loan it to you, or they lend it to you. They do not "borrow it to you." You borrow it from them.
"Youse Guys." They can talk like this on The Sopranos and Goodfellas, but other than that, let it go. Double Negatives. “He don't know no better" is another jewel I’ve heard. Does this mean he actually does know better since two of the words cancel each other out? These examples are merely a few of the blights on the English language in current use.
My personal favorite is when several of these rules are broken in the same sentence: "I ain’t seen them guys since I borrowed my car to them, and there wasn't nothing wrong with my car when they took it."
As a country that seems to be coming under more and more fire from the world community almost daily, we should all be embarrassed by the poor state of the English language in America. The spoken word is the way we represent ourselves; it is a reflection of who we are and the care we take when expressing ourselves or forming thoughts. Cultural or regional differences in language, or slang, are part of any language -- they aren’t the issue. The problem lies in the improper usage of what is supposed to be our native tongue. Its no wonder half the world sees Americans as lazy and unsophisticated, because that is how we often speak and represent ourselves.Cean Burgeson can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org