My 61'st

A lovely day... a bit of a rant.

My 61'st birthday. My family showed me a really nice time. I did as little as I liked the whole day and had a delightful homemade dinner with my favorite beer.

presents. Fresh apple pie for desert. I could not have asked for more.

I often think about how old my parents looked to me when I was a child. I have memories going back to age 4 at least. I was born in 1960 and I have crystal clear memories of president Kennedy being shot. My parents were in their mid-twenties and they seemed ancient at the time. They stayed in bed and there was crying.

The most striking moment came for me when Barack Obama won the White House; when I became aware that the president of the United States was 1 year younger than me. That was certainly a first.

I love English! I also speak Spanish, which for me at least, has let to an appreciation for just how gutterally brutal my first tongue often is. When I took the ACT test to enroll in college the school awarded me all nine credits of English I would need to graduate. I recently wondered that if I had ever gotten around to studying Shakespeare I might have better understood human nature, and at an earlier age.

There are popular changes to English grammar that really piss me off. I am a tad pedantic but I have never been accused of being a grammar nazi. My rant begins with "Everyday". I have seen it in commercials, mail promotions, even on billboards. I have had to explain it to several people who are in their 20's, one of them quite assertively.

Everyday is an adjective. The word indicates daily, routine, or ordinary things. An adjective must be followed by a noun. Every day, before I leave the house, I put on my everyday shoes. "Every day" is an adjective followed by a noun. "Everyday shoes" is an adjective followed by a noun. "Best deals in town, everyday" does not make sense. "Best everyday deals in town" does.

I have accepted the transformation of "Sooner rather than later" to "Sooner than later". It is charming and concise, even a little ironic. A warm embrace. I am stumbling with the use of "barely". It seems it is now used to mean "only just (now)" as opposed to "almost didn't". I suppose Shakespeare would not object.

I have both heard and read "tons" of people using the word "tons" as a quantitative adverb like "lots". I have heard this in science, political, and news programs for a while now. In my head, I ask "tons, huh? Metric, imperial, or short tons?" And are we measuring cars, people, or people in their cars? Sigh.

Oh, and what happened to the word "fewer"? Unless you are measuring by the ton "There are less people in New Hampshire than there were ten years ago" is not grammatically correct. There are fewer people. More is the opposite of less water flooding the street. More is also the opposite of fewer — things we customarily enumerate; like people, trees, buffalo, etc.

The loss of the personal pronoun hurts the most. I have even witnessed this on BBC America. People who observe the speed limit help keep us all safe. "There are a growing number of people that ignore speed limit" is wrong. If it does not seem wrong to you then I don't know what to say. "Many of the people that I asked..." could care less. I lament this as a loss of English literacy. When British English speakers vandalize the personal pronoun I find it appalling.

Then there are dimensions of words like "Awesome". Awesome, to quote Neil DeGrasse Tyson, was the Apollo Moon Landing project. The new leggings at Old Navy are not awesome.

So the rest of this rant is about elocution. Recently my wife gave me a DNA test kit as a gift. I learned that genes are almost entirely English and Belgian. I had always thought I was Dutch (I am adopted, so I had no idea). Save for Monty Python's Flying Circus, I was exposed to very little King's English growing up. I did read some Brittish literature, but was fixated on Science Fiction. Much of my exposure was in adulthood. About a decade ago I learned, to my delight, that I am more facile with the King's than are most Americans. I learned this from Novell technical support. eDirectory is a Novell directory services environment used for identity, authentication, and rights management on file systems distributed over a network of servers. Many support calls not related to eDirectory would result in the call being picked up by an American. eDirectory calls would be answered in an Indian call center. I never enjoyed anything less than an excellent, informative, courteous service call with these speakers of the King's English. They not only spoke Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, but the diction and tempo of their speech indicated a high degree of education. I often wonder if they had special training, because more recent experiences with international project teams were sometimes difficult. To be fair, more than one of those difficult people was a Californian who ranwordstogherinanunendingstreamuntilone wanted to scream. When someone asks me to "say that again please" I assume that they want me to clarify, not repeat the same words that they unable to understand the first time.

I once got to listen to two Jamaican school girls in animated conversation on a bus in Panama City, Panama. I heard the most lyrical and delightful pidgeon English I have ever heard in my life. I only got to listen in for about ten blocks, but their grammar was impeccable. The whole conversation was almost like song.

Much later, I would live through the "Valley Girls" fad. Although it has not died out entirely, much of the silliness has subsided. I have recently been choking on people suppressing the T on the second syllable. I blame the gecko. The Geico gecko has popularized the Cockney accent to an extent that the Sex Pistols could scarcely have imagined. The result is that the pronunciation of proper nouns like Manhattan becomes Manha-on. As this phenomenon grew in popularity I could not figure out where it came from. Then one day a few weeks ago I realized it was Cockney.

Mind you, I have no truck with people speaking English with a regional accent, dialect, or pidgeon. In fact I have very little trouble understanding them. But the proper enunciation of words, and some sort of reasonable grammar, are required for a solid understanding of what the speaker is trying to say. I do not think this too much to ask. I think that public school education must be held to higher account, and with higher regard, than it has been for a very long time. Elocution (now reserverved for people who have speech impediments, and now called "Speech Therapy") has been lost, along with instruction in Civics. I say we are all poorer as a result.