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Grammer declining in society

August 31, 2007

“Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.”
– Mark Twain

People judge us everyday, and we judge them right back. But, sometimes this endless circle of judging is about more than just outward, physical appearances and socially acceptable behaviors. On top of our physical attributes, we all are constantly judged by the ways in which we speak and write.

Grammar is obviously an important aspect in our modern idea of a well-functioning society, and, when used poorly, we seem dim-witted and/or uneducated. I never really realized this fact until a few weeks ago when I began taking advanced grammar with Michelle Jimmerson, who is an assistant professor of English and the instructor of said course.

Living in the South, we’ve all been guilty of prolonging the life of a syllable or two or, perhaps, morphing words such as “supposed” into “suppost;” we can do better than this.

As a writer, I’ve always known that grammar is a vital part of society; however, I never really grasped its importance prior to taking this course.

After taking Jimmerson’s extremely humbling grammar assessment, I immediately knew there was still much for me to learn.

Ask yourself: Would you want a doctor who failed to follow the rules of subject-verb agreement? Or would you want a lawyer defending you who can’t quite differentiate between the meanings of certain legal terms?

This may not bother you, and these people may be well-versed in their respective professions.

However, you may have a difficult time believing so because of the disaster formerly known as the English language flowing from their lips. The usage of good grammar is like the polish on a new Cadillac; its presence is an appreciated embellishment. I am in no way grammatically perfect. In fact, I thank God everyday for spell check. But there are a few obvious errors that irk me.

Bad grammar is all around us in epidemic proportions, and songs, signs, headlines and TV shows are all familiar culprits.

One beautifully tragic example that instantly comes to my mind is Gwen Stefani’s annoyingly repetitive, “Rich Girl” which states: “If I was a rich girl” followed by an unnecessary amount of “Na Na’s.” C’mon, Gwen. It’s “If I WERE a rich girl.”

Or there’s also Akon’s “Don’t Matter” with its deep construction of “Nobody wanna see us together/But it don’t matter no/’Cause I got you babe.”

Wow.

Aside from songs, the other night as I was watching Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” it happened. One of the “celebrity” judges complimented a contestant’s style by referring to it as “really unique.” Really?

So, this means that there is more than just one “unique” out there? Hmmm…, I don’t think so. Before Mrs. Jimmerson, a statement such as this would not have fazed me.

It’s official. Bad grammar is lurking everywhere like an infectious disease, waiting for some unsuspecting person to latch onto and spread out into the world causing mass confusion.

Maybe I’m too picky when it comes to things like this, and I know that pop culture should be that last place to look for correct grammar usage.

Seriously, though. Once you are shown the truth about grammar, you’ll never be the same; so thank you, Mrs. Jimmerson, for showing me the light.

Staci Parks is a junior journalism major from Slapout, Ala., and serves as managing editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to slp025@latech.edu.

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