Thursday, December 17, 2015

Stupid Speech

The Bible says, "Give honor to whom honor is due" (Romans 13:7), so I must credit Shawn C. Turner with providing the inspiration for this post. Recently, he published an insightful piece on the absurdities of some popular expressions that masquerade as sensible speech (check out his blog Shawn, Drawn. See "You don't say" published November 24, 2015). I have long been an avid offendee at poor English and other forms of decaying communication. What English teacher isn't? So here is my bite at the same apple.

This football season I have noticed that pass receivers are doing something spectacular, something they have never done before, something play-by-play announcers love to reveal to the uninitiated TV audience. They are now somehow able to "catch the ball at its highest point." No joke. I must have heard Gary Danielson of CBS say this no less fewer than 155 times. Let me offer a little thought here. I'm no physics teacher, but the ball is at its lowest point when it reaches the receiver. It just is. It can't be thrown any other way. Not only that, but the receiver is forced to catch the ball where the ball is when it gets to him and he can't do anything about that. He either catches the ball where it is when it gets to him, or he doesn't catch the ball. It would be like an announcer for a MLB game saying an outfielder who caught a fly ball nabbed it at its highest point. Huh? Why do they do this? Stop it already.

I love sports, but I am sure this next one came from the world of professional basketball. Let me give one simple English rule to all my readers who can spell the word grammar. The subject of a sentence is never the object of a preposition. NEVER!!!! Sometime in the 1980s, I heard Kevin McHale of the Boston Celtics explain his success at guarding some forgotten player by saying, "I try to stay between he and the basket." That was the very first time I had ever heard third grade English stood on its head by someone who should have known better. Now, ten out of nine college educated adults think it's refined speech to use subjective case pronouns where clear rules of grammar call for objective case pronouns, and yes there are rules. If we are going to have pronoun cases in English, we should follow the rules, me thinks. 

Not long ago I watched a commercial for a law firm that pleaded with the viewers to protect "you and your family's health." This one is similar to the offense above because it substitutes the subjective case pronoun for the possessive case. I assume the lawyers wrote it or at least read over the commercial they were paying lots of cash to have aired on national television. "You health." Really? How hard is that?

And that is how you check it. I know that prepositions, objects, subjective, and objective cases all sort or clouds up in the brain after one has been out of school a decade or two. But if in doubt between "Jill and I" of "Jill and me" just leave Jill out and the answer becomes crystal clear. Jill and I are going to the ball game, but don't give Jill and me a hard time about it. See how easy that is.

One more and I will get off my soap box. Increasingly I am hearing the plural verb being used with collective nouns. That ain't no way to talk. This one started with broadcasters, as far as I can tell through my casual observation. Now it is common to hear, "The team are playing well." I think some newscaster heard a BBC documentary and picked it up because it sounded British. That's because it is British. Let me remind you that we whipped them Brits in 1776 and again in 1812, so they can't tell us how to do English. This one comes out with a vengeance around World Cup time when sports fans are listening to European announcers pronounce "The team are . . . ." The team IS dang it! The team IS. Don't make me come see you. 

Wake up Amuhrica! Save your language before it's too late.