Standards, What Standards?

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Now I realize once in a while a tiny minority of adults, without thinking, may make tiny errors in grammar. Even I, a scholar of some renown, did so once. It was later shown that I was in fact correct and the English teacher was wrong and was chastised for it. Originally the school board decided a one-day suspension would suffice. I, as the victim of the injustice, however, felt that even though she was close to retirement age and obviously dotty, the seriousness of her blunder, which I must add caused me many sleepless nights, a rash of adolescent pimples and a nervous twitch that plagued me throughout my academic years (and what years would they be ask several of my teachers), warranted a much more severe punishment.

We finally settled for her dismissal with no letter of recommendation and a loss of all pension benefits. My request for a public tar and feathering was felt to be mean and even a tad spiteful and all she received was a public pants-down over-the-knee spanking on Canada Day. (The nervous twitch turned out to be jock itch caused by only taking my gym clothes home to be washed every June and again at Christmas)

What triggered this critique of television’s total disregard of the importance of the correct use of the English language was a remark made by a person of the criminal persuasion on NCIS, who said, and I quote, “I’m not going nowhere.”, a double negative. (And a lie, since he later went somewhere.)

Now I realize most TV shows we see originate south of the border, a country where voting for a madman is considered quite an accomplishment and gives the elector the right to wear a red ball cap backward (as are most of the people who do so). I know a few Canadians, even friends, who are Trump fans and that suggests to me that something is leaking into our water systems and it isn’t intelligence.

Before I leave the subject of American politics, doesn’t it bother you that Joe Biden, the Democrat candidate who will be running against The Donald for the Presidency is (how can I put this?) approaching the age when he could be on a wait list for a nursing home? If he wins, and there is a good chance he will, we will have the leader of the most powerful country on earth who has to get up three times a night to have a pee? What happens if the nuke button is sitting on the back of the toilet and he leans on it for support? There goes North Korea.

But we were talking about grammar, well at least I was. I understand TV writers are gearing their programs for people who believe, or at least suspect, that zombies live in their vicinity but they are not afraid. Nor should they be since zombies eat brains, and… enough said.

I don’t remember when I started to notice these slip-ups in grammar and while we are at it, spelling errors. ‘Loose’ for ‘lose’ is a fine example. “I seen it” for “I saw it” is becoming quite common. I am too much of a gentleman to tell you which prominent member of our society once said, “We’ve got to learn our womenfolk” while speaking to a gathering of citizens. It suggests to me that ‘womenfolk’ should be ‘learning’ him, but it is probably too late for that.

I fear some and perhaps a whole lot of today’s grammatical problems were caused by the hippity-hop music of the 70s. Although I do recall a few lyrics from the love songs of the early 1900s that made me cringe – Shine on Harvest Moon’s “I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June and July,” comes to mind, not to forget the ever popular Three Little Fishes in an itty bitty Pool, an operatic aria that will live forever in the world of classical music.

Not to sound scholarly, but I wonder if it is just the inevitable evolution of the English language caused by the influx of other cultures and we might as well get used to it. We don’t use forsooth or odds bodkins all that often anymore, although egad, pshaw and up yours are often heard at the Legion but usually immediately after the Last Call has been announced.

As Bob Dylan sang, times they are a-changing and our language is too. But if you happen to run into a senior with a bandage wrapped around their head staggering down the street, there was no accident. It is just some retired English teacher from the 20th Century repeatedly banging his or her head against a wall in frustration.

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