Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.
Did you not notice I took four weeks off? If you didn’t, c’est la guerre. In any event, I’m back, with a new hip. It should be the last one, as I understand you’re only allotted two of the stainless-steel airport security alert triggers.
Perhaps it’s the minor post-surgical discomfort, but I have found I have been more irritated than usual by the inanities of broadcast news and sports. (It’s probably from watching too much television, but an invalid can’t read all the time.)
I know that language is not static, but of all the doctrines imparted to me by the Sisters of the Holy Names, one of the few to stick was that the English I learned in my youth should remain inviolate, for it was the correct English.
Therefore, I knew from an early age that when my Grandma said “he don’t” or “she don’t,” it was a solecism verging on sin.
For years I remained reconciled to a reasonable level of linguistic slippage, but the pervasion of abominable English through the electronic media has brought an explosion of error.
For example, in some cases, letters that should be silent have been made audible and some that should be audible have become silent. “Often” is most often pronounced “off-ten” by news readers and other “role models,” instead of the correct “offen.” Conversely, the hard “g” has all but vanished from “recognize.” Now the execrable “recunize” commonly – and I do mean commonly – issues from the mouths of the talking heads.
Perhaps worse is the degeneration of “protect.” Ninety percent of the time, TV personalities have it “pretect.” English can be difficult, but in general the rules of phonics apply and an “o” should be pronounced “o.”
Decades ago, Dizzy Dean, the late, great baseball pitcher-turned-sportscaster, was nearly run off the radio for fracturing the English language. You know, “He slud into third.”
Dean’s solecisms were loveable, but when a slick, razor-cut, cashmere-clad sportscaster declares that a ball carrier “should have went” or “should have ran,” it is simply hateful. And why do these college communications majors persist in wasting syllables with the construction “if he would have,” when “if he had” would suffice?
Perhaps the most galling of linguistic lost causes is the lexicographers’ surrender to the common usage of “epicenter.” This is because TV news producers – OK, newspaper writers, too – think that hitching “epi” to the front of “center” makes the word seem all the more central. Alas, the prefix, rather than augmenting a word, actually is a diminution. It means above or near, as in its once exclusive application in describing earthquakes. (The “epicenter” is the point on the earth’s surface directly above the focus of an earthquake.)
Mispronunciations are bad enough, but the alteration of meaning should distress anybody who cares about language. Those who do care cannot be found on the sets of TV news programs, and they are vanishing from most newspaper copy desks.
It’s a losing battle, I know, but we shall do what we can while we can.
I have kept up with the news, sort of, occasionally rousing from mid-day slumber to take notes.
- California now boasts an openly law-breaking lawyer. The state Supreme Court said Sergio Garcia could practice law, having graduated law school and passed the bar exam. The essence of the decision was, “Aw, shucks! His parents brought him here from Mexico when he was just 7, so his illegal status isn’t really his fault.” The justices might have added, “Never mind the fact the family went back and forth, last bringing Sergio north when he was 17.” We argue again: If the border means nothing, isn’t it time for the United States to annex Mexico?
- In the Christian Science Monitor we found an item about Nicaragua and President Daniel Ortega’s push to revise that country’s constitution. The plan is to give the chief executive broader power to rule by decree. Hey! Just like the Obama administration.
- Then we learned of a new California law extending state pension coverage to same-sex spouses. Cool. I’ve been the same sex for as long as I can remember.
- Forget GPS! We were disappointed to learn a study of canine defecation did not originate in the United States. We have Germany to thank for the revelation that pooping pups tend to align their bodies north-south, with the earth’s magnet lines of force. This Teutonic triumph means we face a dog-doo gap, but it’s nice to know that if one ever is lost, he need only find a needful dog to find true north.
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