Why Can’t the English?

As a person who studies the English language I have a certain appreciation for the structure and formatting. I am well inclined to like those who use it properly. I am not a “grammar nazi” by any means, and I certainly make a good amount of mistakes on a daily basis (I’m sure my talented readers could find many). Even so, living in our modern world that has so little appreciation for good grammar is hard sometimes.

Here are some lovely anonymous Facebook posts and comments I picked up as examples of the problems. I found these after just a few minutes of scanning my news feed:

“It’s just painful for a little while after, especially if the tensions start sticking to skin and bone, but for the most part, nothing to worry about! And if you have a good surgeon you’ll heal completely and have full use of yore hand in no time. And I don’t remember the slightest but of the surgery, and the pain meds made me happy lol”

“I miss you and love u!!! Wish I could have seen you before you left .. Have lots of fun!!!”

“Sadly no….but its kind of shockingly accurate

“So ___ and I saw this poor little duck that was struggling for its life in the pond at Julia Davis. We preceded to stop our game of disc golf and attempted to rescue her.”

“fantastic! i approve.”

These are just some random examples of the problems that can be seen on social media posts. Misspellings, lack of capitalization, no punctuation, etc. And these easily corrected errors drive me absolutely crazy. Though not perfect at English I wish some people could take more time before they speak or post.

Recently I’ve been listening to my favorite musicals as a stress reliever before my exams. While listening I came across an old favorite, “Why Can’t the English” from My Fair Lady. The song is an amusing dig at those who don’t know how to speak properly, but I relate it to writing as well.

I’ll post the lyrics and a Spotify track below. Give me your thoughts. Do you think there’s a problem with people not bothering to use proper grammar?

 

Higgins:
Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter,
Condemned by every syllable she utters.
By right she should be taken out and hung,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.

Eliza:
Aaoooww!

Higgins:
Aaoooww!
Heavens, what a noise!
This is what the British population,
Calls an elementary education.

Pickering:
Come, sir, I think you picked a poor example.

Higgins:
Did I?
Hear them down in Soho square,
Dropping “h’s” everywhere.
Speaking English anyway they like.
You sir, did you go to school?

Man:
Wadaya tike me for, a fool?

Higgins:
No one taught him ‘take’ instead of ‘tike’!

Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse,
Hear a Cornishman converse,
I’d rather hear a choir singing flat.
Chickens cackling in a barn,
Just like this one here.

Eliza:
Garn!

Higgins:
I ask you, sir, what sort of word is that?

It’s “Aaoooww” and “Garn” that keep her in her place.
Not her wretched clothes and dirty face.

Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
This verbal class distinction, by now,
Should be antique.
If you spoke as she does, sir,
Instead of the way you do,
Why, you might be selling flowers, too!

Pickering:
I beg your pardon!

Higgins: An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him.
The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.
One common language I’m afraid we’ll never get,
Oh, why can’t the English learn to

set a good example to people whose
English is painful to your ears?
The Scots and the Irish leave you close to tears.
There even are places where English completely disappears.

In America, they haven’t used it for years!

Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
Norwegians learn Norwegian,
the Greeks are taught their Greek.
In France every Frenchman knows his language from “A” to “Zed”

The French never care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.

Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning,
The Hebrews learn it backwards,
which is absolutely frightening.
But use proper English and you’re regarded as a freak.

Why can’t the English,
Why can’t the English,
Learn To Speak?

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Why Can’t the English?

  1. Clav(inna)

    It drives me crazy too! Especially people writing “would of” when they mean “would’ve”. I think it effects the younger generation the most. They now grow up on and learn from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter (only 140 characters!). They also hugely rely on the computer’s spellcheck function. We made it to secondary school without the Internet and had to learn our grammar.
    By the way, My Fair Lady, great film!

    • Great example! I agree that 140 characters certainly does contribute to the decline in spelling and the wide use of abbreviations. Thanks for commenting!

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