"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 05/14/10

Friday, May 14, 2010

Readers Talk Back—Plus a Q & A

By Farooq A. Kperogi

As is my tradition, I have decided to pause to give room for my readers to talk back to me—and to other readers of this column.


As you would expect, I receive numerous emails from readers all over the world. Most of them are questions on usage conventions in English; others are additional insights on issues I have raised on this blog.


This week I am sharing with readers particularly insightful comments some of my readers shared with me in lively conversations about language use. I hope you enjoy the comments as much as I did.

Re: Weird Words We’re Wedded to in Nigerian English

The phenomenon you mentioned with regards to word shift and relegation into obsolescence in the original language of the introducing culture also occurs, somewhat, when you examine the remnant and lingering African linguistic repertoire of some African descended diaspora groups in the Caribbean and Latin America.

This is especially evident within the ritualistic realm, in songs, and even rhythms or [such other] symbolic markers of identity. I found this occurrence within the extant Yoruba repertoire of Cuban Santeria (or more appropriately Lukumi).

I recorded some songs that some modern Yoruba speakers with whom I originally shared these chants and songs merely could not decode, only saying “this is really ancient Yoruba.” While [Yoruba speakers] in Cuba retained these, the contemporary [Nigerian] Yoruba [speakers] I shared these with seemed to have themselves evolved as a result, of course, of many factors, not excluding linguistic and historical shifts.

It seems that these lingering linguistic repertoire… outside of the dominant or introducing fields probably indicates some attempts to keep some level of fossilized linguistic originality, or equally constitute an embrace of a linkage—identity faithful to its source formation and incarnated toward sustaining social identity—as a marker of distinction or differentiation, in validating social relevance within the essence of mapping cultural cognition within the universe of identity politics.
Tony Agbali (attahagbl@yahoo.com)

Re: Top 10 Irritating Errors in American English
There is a great deal of improper grammar spoken in the US; and even more in its written English. Some of this is just poor education while others represent the continuing pull of regionalism. In the example of "waiting on" instead of "waiting for" there is a historical antecedent in the linguistic development of the language. It is a carryover, preserved in the rural South, of the Saxon version of English and its German root "warten auf" ("to wait for").

Parts of the development of American English were frozen in linguistically isolated communities, like the Appalachian Mountains, where the earlier Scots-Irish inflections and word patterns were preserved (see country music as a guide). There has always been a distinction between 'educated' English and the jabber of the hoi polloi which covered the accretion of foreign words and phrases brought to the country from the linguistically diverse countries of origin of an immigrant community.

This has been reinforced by the ad agencies seeking to target special communities by using phraseology which emanates from the target group. Similarly, the coinage of neologisms and code phrases (viz. Valley English in California) are meant to exclude the non-witting.

Primarily, though, it is the record of a poor education system which doesn't stress the value of precise language and the rules of grammar. The acceptance of the death of the predicate nominative has always distressed me but has become part of spoken English (e.g."It was me').

 Until teachers and professors start to insist on the use of grammatical English, this deterioration will continue. Thanks for raising this interesting point in your article.
Ocnus (that’s the only self-reference the author provided).

Farooq, nice one. Honestly, it is frustrating. You leave Nigeria with Queen’s English, thinking you know how to speak. Then you hit this stone wall of incomprehensible American English, particularly the vocabulary. And these words are becoming everyday colloquial usage as pedestrian as they may sound. (I honestly don't even know if I still speak English). Examples:

1). Your Ride= Your Car.

2). Your Crib=Your House/Home

3). Let me hit you up real quick=Let me see you.

4). Your Grill=Your Dentition/Teeth

5). Pimp an object=Improve that object to a user's taste.

And I agree with you. In 40 years (by His grace), I will be seating in a rocking chair with headphones on (hopefully still listening to the BBC) because I can't interact with my grandchildren.
Araba (handle on a discussion board)

Q and A

Question:
The English around here is different. Sometimes I feel it's wrong but I say it all the same. Please correct me:

Old: I feel sorry for myself
New: I feel sorry for me

Old: I am taking the dog to the vet
New: I am bringing the dog to the vet

Old: Go and get me
New: Go get me

Old: Will you take me with you to the store?
New: Will you bring me with you to the store?

Old: Come get me on your way
New: Come grab me on your way

I will keep updating as they come!

Answer:
My inclination is to regard the “new” expressions in your examples as legitimately American variations. As someone who frowns at excessively prescriptivist grammar, I am prepared to accept and respect the fact that American English is different from British English, although the two varieties are, as most people know, mutually intelligible.

That said, in the examples you cited above, the only expression that would be inappropriate for formal contexts, even in American English, is the first, that is, the replacement of “myself” with “me.” The rest are perfectly legitimate by the standards of American English.

However, in informal, colloquial contexts, replacing “myself” with “me” is so commonplace—even in British English these days—that it will be unreasonable to dismiss it as a solecism.

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