29 March 2015

Uncommon Commentary #449: Don’t Let Our Language Languish

People in general would likely agree that, if one is to do anything, one ought to try to do that thing as well as one reasonably can.  Yet, they seem to feel that this principle does not apply to the speaking and writing of English, and indeed that, while there may be such things as nonstandard grammar and syntax, the concept of substandard usage isn’t even valid; that it’s all just a question of dialect (or of the politically-motivated absurdity called “Ebonics”—As if being Black rendered one incapable of using proper English!).  In the play Pygmalion, Professor Henry Higgins says: “Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech, that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and the Bible.”  If George Bernard Shaw (a fine dramatist but a distasteful person overall) understood that good English matters, the average, comparatively respectable person ought to understand it also.