Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dinosaurs of the world, unite

One way to tell you’re becoming a dinosaur is when changes occur in the language and you do not keep pace with them. In fact, mes amies, you are downright determined to keep to the old (translation: correct) ways.

Dinosaurs, as we all know, eventually become extinct and no trace of them is left on planet Earth except the occasional fossil found by an enterprising paleontologist.

Which reminds me that my daughter reported this conversation with her 13-year-old son the other day on the drive home from school:

“Mama,” said the 13-year-old, “is it possible to know when a pterodactyl goes to the bathroom?”

“I have no idea,” my daughter said. “Is it?”

He replied, “No, ma’am...because the P is silent.”

Which proves that although language may change, 13-year-old boys never do.

However, language changes so slowly that no one notices what is happening until suddenly no one speaks Anglo-Saxon any more. Except J.R.R. Tolkien, of course, and he is dead.

My current pet peeve (and I hope it is occurring just in America and not throughout the entire English-speaking world) has to do with the past tense of the verb (or rather, the infinitive) to sneak.

Forty years ago the dictionary said the past tense of sneak is “sneaked”.

Twenty-five years ago the dictionary said the past tense of sneak is “sneaked non-standard snuck”.

Ten years ago the the dictionary said the past tense of sneak is “sneaked informal snuck”.

Today, says the past tense of sneak is “sneaked or snuck”.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

At one time, correct word usage was determined by what educated people said. Nowadays, you don’t have to be educated. Anything goes.

I for one will never say snuck. Accordingly, I will soon be extinct myself.

One more thing: Despite what millions of Americans say every single day, drug is not the past tense of drag.

It’s dragged, people. Dragged.


Mary Z said...

When posting on FB this morning, I was sent this heart-felt sentiment, and share it with a fellow "grammar snob":

When comforting a Grammar Nazi, I always say softly,
“There, their, they’re”

And, please, PLEASE, never say "Where's it at?" AAARRRGGGHHH!

Snowbrush said...

"At one time, correct word usage was determined by what educated people said. Nowadays, you don’t have to be educated. Anything goes."

Even in books. "Me and him," for example. I read it everywhere. I hear it everywhere. And whatever happened to the word "people"? Now, it's "folks," a word that before the presidency of the last Bush was considered country and familial. Now, even scientists use it in talking about science, and even Islamic State terrorists have becomes folks. I could go on. I went most of my life without noting abundant changes in usage and grammar only to suddenly find, as you wrote, that anything goes, and that people whom I would otherwise consider educated don't seem to have a clue that they're in error.

Reamus said...

The past tense of slide is now "slud."

As in:
"After you have slud into third, the will drug you off the field"

Thank you Dizzy Dean

Elephant's Child said...

Drug when it should be dragged? Tell me it isn't so. Please.

rhymeswithplague said...

Mary Z, I am neither a grammar snob nor a grammar Nazi, but I think "There, their, they're" is hilarious!

Snowbrush, I think people who say "Me and him" don't know how to be objective.

Reamus, no, no, drug is always past tense, as in "After I slud into third, they drug me off the field".

Elephant's Child, on my mother's grave, I hear it almost every day of me life. I used to think it was a colloquial Southern U.S. thing until I heard the co-host of a national TV program say it in New York City.

rhymeswithplague said...

correction: my life.

Tom Stephenson said...

I was only thinking about the demise of dinosaurs yesterday, as the death of Richard Kiel - 'Jaws' - reminded me that big people and animals die sooner than small ones. I was going to do a post about the meek inheriting the earth.

The the silent P joke, remind the boy that copralite exists - fossilised dung from millions of years ago. That ought to shut him up.

Helsie said...

I can go with snuck but not with drug . Seriously awful but thankfully never heard here so far.
My pet hate is the use (or rather misuse ?) of the word "fun" as in " Ballet is such a fun thing to do."
I guess we're all dinosaurs.( or at least retired teachers !!)

rhymeswithplague said...

Tom Stephenson, it is not my intention to shut my grandson up. I thought it was rather funny, actually, in a back-of-Boys-Life, 13-year-old Boy Scout kind of way.

Helsie, both snuck and drug are seriously awful. I also agree with you about the word "fun" used as an adjective when it is clearly a noun.

Apparently I have introduced drug to an entire continent.

Hilltophomesteader said...

It's everywhere, Mr Rhymes. I've lately seen 'I've done my up most (utmost)', 'it was just to (too) much for me', 'he withered (writhed) on the floor in agony'...
And technically, wouldn't "me and him" be correct if you were saying "She went to the store with me and him"? You just can't start the sentence with it.....right? I've always loved good grammar. I loved my gramper, too. After all, I was there they're their favorite. ;-)

rhymeswithplague said...

Hilltophomesteader, he (or she) who has ears to hear, let him (or her) hear!

Regarding "me and him" it's always more polite to put oneself last, so right off the bat it should be "She went to the store with him and me" but yes, that is correct. It doesn't have to do with start or end of sentence but with subject and object. "Her and I went to the store" should be "She and I went to the store" because it is the subject of the sentence. "Her and I" or "Him and I" or "Me and him" or "Me and her" NEVER go to the store. "She went to the store with him and me [that is, with us, not with we) because it is the object of a preposition (with).

When deciding which construct to use, take away the other person to see how to say it. For example, you would not say, "He gave the candy to I" -- would you? No, you would say, "He gave the candy to me." When dealing with more than one person, think of whether you would say "we" or "us" when deciding -- for example, did he give the candy to her and I? No, he gave the candy to us, so the correct thing to say would be "He gave the candy to him (or to me) but not to he or to I.

I'm afraid I'm not doing a good job of explaining this, but I hope you get what I'm trying to say.

Hilltophomesteader said...

Yes, actually, I know all that ;-)
I was more interested in who was getting candy and if it was penuche fudge, which is my favorite. Even most candy stores consider it to be a seasonal item, so it's not easy to find. I could make it myself...perhaps I will when I am done with canning season. Today we have canned 73 pints of peaches which, incidentally, cost us $23 per box (grown in Yakima WA). Ouch. None of which has anything to do with grammar, but there you have it. Toodles.

rhymeswithplague said...

Hilltophomesteader, it boggles the mind to ponder how many pints of peaches you could can if you lived in Georgia, the Peach State. Even so, I believe South Carolina now produces more peaches than Georgia. If you canned peaches in either South Carolina or Georgia, you would have no time whatsoever for making penuche fudge.

Mary Z said...

And, sorry RWP, I think SC peaches are better. In any case, the most profitable crop in GA now is blueberries. Yum!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

In England a nastiness has sneaked into our language from America and it is the term "stand out" as in this sporting commentator's remark - "To me Brague was the stand out player!"
It used to be that a sporting commentator would say "Brague was the game's most outstanding player!" And I will stick to this - my blood pressure rising ever so slightly when ever I hear the term "stand out".

rhymeswithplague said...

Mary Z, Georgia and South Carolina notwithstanding, the best homemade peach ice cream I have ever tasted was at a roadside stand in a peach orchard somewhere near Newton Grove, North Carolina, when we were on our way from Smithfield to Carolina Beach.

Yorkshire Pudding, no sporting commentator anywhere, ever, has ever said or will ever say that this particular Brague was the game's most outstanding player. I'm just sayin'....

Snowbrush said...

"In England a nastiness has sneaked into our language from America..."

Only one?