Sunday, 5 June 2011

we used to say

As an English teacher I have had to get used to poor literacy skills.  Not mine, of course. I try hard, I really do, along with my colleagues. But we seem to live in an age where communication is paramount due to the amount of devices available.  Somehow, though, the written word itself has become marginalised. And, as Lynne Truss has banged on about for the last few years, punctuation is becoming a total joke.

Mind you, my laptop has taken to randomly doubling up letters and often missing letters out - particularly capitals.  If I wasn't literate my scribblings would become almost incomprehensible.  Much like the way students write nowadays.

For all the poor writing where I have to read about "a women" or a film called  "the decent" I have to bite my tongue because I'm marking Film Studies scripts and NOT English as has been pointed out to me a few times too often. However, one thing that is really getting my goat is the use of such phrases as "the decent (sic) is a british horror."  A British horror what? Biscuit? It's a film, a British Horror film.  These are, after all,  A level students I'm talking about!

Where I really am getting fed up though is in the way that our lovely language is being eroded through sheer laziness.  Have you asked anyone how they are recently?  If anyone asks me how I am I always reply, I'm well/fine/okay" which all seem reasonable responses. Since when  has "I'm good" become an acceptable answer?  Well, it hasn't for me. I'm good? Yeah, fine, but how are you? Are you well?  Mind you if they wrote it, it would be "im good".

Another phrase I hate that has even started to creep in onto Radio 4 is (big breath) "It's a big ask".  It's a what?  The headmaster of our school uses phrases like that.  A politician used it yesterday - I don't know what he was talking about because I was groaning too loudly.  Would it be too much of a big ask to ask you to learn how to speak the language properly?

Oh well, rant over for now.  Otherwise I might start moaning about emoticons - I'm definitely with Ms Truss on that one (see the last chapter of Eats, Shoots & Leaves).


Brendini said...

Dave the only riposte to "I'm good" is "Well, I'm evil and now I shall kill you."
I think the law states that you are quite within your rights to terminate their life right there and then.

Brendini said...

By the way, who is saying that you shouldn't correct the English in a Film Studies essay? The whole point of an essay is to communicate your thoughts in a clear and concise manner.

Dave Leeke said...

Yes, but the powers that be expect us to ignore that and they make only a comment in the marking criteria as a sop to all that "literacy crap". That's not really a quote - I imagined it.

My point exactly is that we should expect an attempt to communicate well. At least the Chief Examiner made that point last year - but he was notable for his absence at this year's conference.

People like yourself and I have high expectations of the use of language. I guess that future employers have come up trough the system that doesn't seem to give a flying one for literacy.

"Clear and precise"? I'd kill for it. Loads of them have written 14 pages. Why? It's all waffle.

Mike C. said...

I think you'll find that a true pedant would write "like you and me", Professor Truss...

Rant not, lest thou be ranted against...

Just sayin'


Andy Wright said...

I particularly detest the current tendency, usually amongst the young, to say (when ordering a beer,ice cream,fish and chips or an Aston Martin "Can I get....(said product)?" Whatever happened to "Can I have or the even more polite "May I have ....?" And another thing. Why does everybody in this country (well, not everybody, because I certainly don't)feel the need to respond to any request or other statement with the inane comment "No problem".Here is an example Me: "A pint of IPA please" Bar person: "No problem, that will be £2.90" Me: "Thank you" (handing over an appropriate amount of legal tender) Bar person: "No problem.......enjoy your drink!" Aaaaaaaarghhhhh.

Mike C. said...

Yes, those get me really irritated, too, Andy, but -- at the risk of being ponderous -- I think the thing is they're Americanisms, and stem from a different view of "service".

[Nobody need read what follows, it's -- ahem -- my theory]

We have inherited traditions of politeness from a society where the relationship between the person asking for and the person delivering a service can be presumed to be unequal. "A pint of your very best bitter, my good man!" carries with it the implicit threat of a damn good thrashing if I don't get it, soonest.

In the US, waiters, etc., position themselves as social equals to their customers, and customers respond to this by dispensing with "politeness". The end result is that "please" and "thank you" have become uncomfortable words that demand a response, which the barman helpfully supplies by saying "You're welcome" or "No problem"...

If you've been to the States, you must have had that excruciating experience where it seems like the waiter wants to be your new best friend... I think it helps to wastch old episodes of "Cheers".

This doesn't mean a damn good thrashing from a gentleman's cane wouldn't do some of these young baristas a power of good, of course.


Mike C. said...

Sorry, meant to add this link:

It seems everyone is a grumpy old man these days.


Dave Leeke said...

The biggest problem for me in term time is that I can't access blogs at school. Thank you all for your responses.

Andy - that's a good point. I havve actually found myself using "No Problem" and I shall stop it immediately. Adnam's Bitter is now £3 a pint at the Half Moon.

Mike - thanks for the link, I'll check it out. I think you're probably right about the difference between our two great nations. But a sound thrashing never did me any harm.

By the way, I'm certainly no language expert just an interested party. But the occasional rant helps stir things up a bit.

Andy Wright said...

Mike, I think your theory is spot on. Anyway, must go..... "Missing you already!"

Mike C. said...

No probs, Andy, you're welcome.


Natalie McGuire said...

Nobody mention 'quadrilogy'...

Dave Leeke said...

Hi Nat - aargh! You mentioned it!

Well, at least until Ridley Scott manages to get the two - two - "Prequels" made. "Prequels" - another one for the list.

Hope you're well, nice to hear from you.