Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Language Manglers

I realize that there's little use in decrying the demise of the "proper" English language. Few people remember or care that the signs in the grocery store should read "12 items or fewer" not "or less." Frankly, it had never occurred to me until it was brought up the other day in conversation - I'm just so used to seeing it that it never dawned on me I knew it was wrong. Which is how things that were once mistakes come to slowly but surely be accepted into the mainstream, "proper" language. Though "ain't" is still wrong, people.

But every once in a while, I hear something or see something that just... well, it's just wrong. Sometimes it's not even an error per se, it's just such a poor use of the English language by someone who ought to at least make an effort to know better that it gets kind of discouraging.

I was watching lacrosse the other day on one of the sports networks. NCAA women's lacrosse, where, for those of you who don't know, Northwestern's team dominates in ways that the Yankees and the Lakers can only dream about. Now, in general sportscasters are easy game anyway. They're live, and often caught up in the moment, and inclined to make what are really, really stupid and/or obvious observations. For which they are promptly and deservedly ridiculed. I think SI or ESPN has a regular feature on the dumb things sportscasters say.

That said, and acknowledging that maintaining live chatter is more difficult than it might seem, the comment made during the lacrosse game struck as being particularly egregious. North Carolina was down 21 to 5 at that point, and the commentator pointed out that the score wasn't what NC had hoped it would be. Which was a bit of an understatement.

Now, it's possible it was intended as such, and meant to be wry and witty - but it didn't sound that way. No, it sounded as though the sportscaster was very severe. As if NC had discovered the ice cream store was out of sprinkles or something, rather than getting drubbed on the national stage. I thought to myself that were surely better ways to express the situation than weakly commenting on how the game wasn't going the way NC had wanted it to. That much seemed blatantly obvious.

It's this lack of effort to better articulate that bothers me more so than anything else. Grammar rules change, usage changes, and the language adapts and evolve. But sheer laziness and an inability to better express ourselves leads not only to poorer communications but a dumbing-down of the same. And we've already got too much of that going on as it is.

1 comment:

Kmcelhinny said...

Wow... who knew Lacrosse could be so controversial?? It's refreshing to see you stay the same in some aspects. Of course, many sports broadcasters have a way of pointing out the blatantly obvious...