Friday, October 24, 2008


My sisters say my blog has gotten boring since school started. Perhaps my life has gotten boring. Anyway, if you would like to skip the following post, my summary of a speech I attended for my TESOL class, I will never know.

John McWorter's address on the Power of Babel was designed to counter the notion that "most of us are running around speaking it [the English language] wrong." 

Languages change and evolve. Modern English was preceded by Middle English and Old English. Our society embraces the changes in language from the Beowulf poet to Chaucer to Shakespeare, yet we expect the development of language to end with Jane Austen. In reality our language has changed and sentences that are perfectly correct today would have been barbarous two hundred years ago. 

Obsession with "correct" English, McWorter contended in his speech to faculty and students at SVSU, is fueled simply by fashion. To McWorter a fixation on grammar rules is as ridiculous as "hanging garlic in the doorway to ward off spirits."

McWorter was an engaging and entertaining speaker who, as he admitted, often makes pale grammarians turn red in the face. McWorter believes that "you don't make mistakes in the language you speak naturally." It's perfectly acceptable to say, "Billy and me went to the store" despite what grammar books may say. 

However illogical the English language may be, there is a time for those rules McWorter admitted. Public school teachers or teachers in a TESOL environment would do their students a disservice not to teach them Standard English. 

Still if in an informal setting a student wants to drop the "s" from the third person singular verb McWorter argues that is a perfectly legitimate use of the English language. 

1 comment:

  1. Ehme,
    Despite your sister's comments I find the flexibility of the English language intriguing. I'll definitely vote for the freedom of grammar act if it makes the ballot this November. McWorter's lecture sounds interesting. Did I ever mention to you the article I read while subbing that said the spelling bee is unique to the English language?....doesn't work in other languages as they are too easy to spel.
    Luve ue
    Uyr Annte