Member Musing: Carole J. Greene

Carole J. Greene

Member Musings features the reflections and thoughts of an NPC member

Effective Use of Language: Am I Totally Out Of It?

As a mentor for Press Club of Southwest Florida scholarship recipients, I have often chatted with my current mentee, listening to any issues arising from her classes or even her choice to continue majoring in journalism. The most recent scholarship student I talked with told me that in her first-year journalism curriculum a speech course is required.

Thank God, I thought. I wish ALL college students had to take a course in public speaking. Why? Because ingrained teenage habits—possibly to help one fit in with one’s peers—produce speech errors I find disagreeable. Take “like,” for instance. If I have to listen to someone, who supposedly hopes to finish a four-year degree and get a decent job, pepper her speech with “like” every fifth word, I cringe at her prospects when out in the work-world. In the journalism field, who would hand her a microphone and ask her to report the news? Like nobody! See how useless that “like” is?

I hope that speech professors insist on proper grammar. We long ago gave up trying to enforce “whom” instead of “who” in the objective case (“Whom are you calling?” When was the last time you heard/said that?). But now I hear way too often this type of utterance: “Me and her went shopping.” What? Are schools no longer teaching “She and I”—in that order—as the subjective forms of the pronouns, that is, subjects of the verb—in this case—“went”?

While I’m focused on subjective/objective, let me rant about another pet peeve: the appropriate form of the pronoun as the object of a preposition (see that word “object”?) is the objective case. That means “Between you and I…” is wrong wrong wrong! Do not give me that argument “English is a living language, and common usage eventually becomes accepted usage.” No, it does not. I will go to my grave (urn) insisting on “between you and me,” so please do not try to change my mind.

When I took Senior Composition in high school—a requirement on the College Preparatory curriculum—my teacher awarded an automatic “F” grade to any essay containing a contraction. Today, since the accepted standards for language expression have become so relaxed, I wonder if a teacher could get by with that. Pick up any newspaper or listen to any broadcast and you will discover contractions everywhere. I guess I am way too old-fashioned—totally out of it.

Even people who make their living as talkers get into habits that make my skin crawl. Listen carefully to “talking heads” on TV to discern how many seconds they take to say anything meaningful. Too often, the first 10 seconds are nothing but meaningless fillers. “Well, listen, you know, I mean, look, um…” What idea has been communicated? Right, not one. Please do not waste my time!

Perhaps I fight a losing battle here. The entire world seems not to care about the most effective way to impart opinions or feelings—perhaps even wise counsel. We expect our leaders in any field to live up to certain standards, do we not? Standards, after all, impart clarity in communication.

Maybe that is where I am totally out of sync with the rest of the world. What standards? The bar has been lowered to a point where almost anything is accepted.

I find myself on some days dangerously close to starting to yearn for that urn.

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