Columnists: A lesson in bad English
All writers that do what I do walk a fine line between correct English and English the way it is often used. Almost always, I'll look at something I just wrote, using improper structure, or words that I've butchered, and change it.
Because I don't want you to think that I don't know what I'm doing, I change it.
It's been a long time, but one of The Young Girls (one of three daughters) came home for the weekend from college, wearing something new, showing it off, and out of my mouth came the words: "That's nice. Is it boughten?"
Her reaction wasn't quite as bad as a fart in church, but it was close. She, the latest victim in this family of yet another dedicated English professor at the college level, replied: "Dad! That's not a word!"
"It ain't?" I replied, beaming innocence.
"No, isn't," she said. After all, she won a spelling bee at the age of eleven, and knows what's what, when it comes to words. Plus, that English course.
"Well," I replied, "did you understand what I meant when I said it?" Of course, she admitted that she did, but still, that didn't forgive me for saying it.
We've left a lot of the best language behind us, the language of rural middle America.
"Look," I told my daughter, "I've got seven years of college behind me."
I went on to say that basically, I have nothing left to prove, and have earned the right to communicate, rather than to speak, effectively.
They send us to school to learn right from wrong. I learnt it. Now I should be able to use the English language anyway I wanna. That means trying to keep some of the good stuff alive, words like "boughten." Those words come from a time when, if someone showed up in something nice, the greatest compliment of all was to say it was boughten. Something special. Grand. To us.
Maybe, if we held our noses to the grindstone, and didn't fritter our nickels away willy-nilly, we could have some boughten stuff ourselves, someday. Meanwhile, we'd save our Sunday shoes for Sunday. When's the last time you thought about Sunday shoes?
We don't all have to use words wrongly. Often enough (exactly how did you pronounce "often." Offen? Or Off-ten?), all we have to do is mispronounce the words we have. What with the English language up to its usual hijinks when it comes to pronounciation, why, if "work" is pronounced "werk," isn't "pork" pronounced "perk?"
One of my favorites is the word "bury." Do you "brrrr-ree" people? Or "berry?" Or "barry?" If you barry someone, did you say a "prare" for him? Try and remember which, next time you go a-barrying.