Posted tagged ‘pronouns’

“Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual worker.”

March 24, 2016

We’re back to dreary and cold. I had put away my flannels only to pull them out this morning. I’m even wearing socks. I spent a couple of hours earlier with my neighbor, the one who became a citizen. We just chat, my way for her to learn better conversational English. She is still having trouble with has and have. I don’t speak any Portuguese beyond please and thank you so I am quite amazed with her grasp of English, a language with weird rules and odd spellings.

I remember workbooks from elementary school. We had one for arithmetic and one for English.  My most vivid memory of a math page was the one on coins. It had a line up of a reasonable facsimile of each coin. I had to figure which coins and how many I needed for something like 35 cents. The answer had to be the smallest amount of coins. A quarter and a dime would get me a check; three dimes and a nickel would merit an X. Dollars were self-evident and didn’t appear in my workbook. We’d do a page or two during the lesson, and sometimes had to finish at home.

The English workbook was filled with things like contractions, subject-verb agreement, singular and plural words and verb tenses. There were pages filled with sentences which had one blank. You had to choose between he or him, she or her and all the rest of the pronouns. I’ve come to believe that many people were either sick at home or sleeping in class and subsequently missed that particular lesson. TV dialogue is rife with errors. I hear things like, give the book to him and I or to her and I, and it makes me cringe. I’ve been told that’s the way people talk now so I should accept it, but what’s wrong is wrong as far as I’m concerned.

I think music and language are similar. If someone plays or sings a piece of music off-key, people don’t find that entertaining. They cringe. They don’t say that’s the way people sing now. I wish language was given the same respect.

I find language beautiful. The right words strung together can fill you with love or longing. They can make you laugh or cry. They have the power to hurt, to cut. Our memories are images described in words.

I accept new words and I know old ones disappear from lack of use. Language is fluid, but the form doesn’t change. A name is a noun. An action word is a verb. The object of the preposition is objective case. It’s him, not he. It’s me, not I. That’s all I’m asking.