Hows Your Diurnal Patois? And Hows Your Old Man?
By ANNE DONNELL
Why don’t people correct those terrible usages like “ain’t” or “he don’t” or “them apples” instead of “those apples”? I could list many more. -Retired Teachers Talking
Yes, retired teachers talk about education. They talk about experience. They talk about school buildings, new and old, and how the school smells after summer vacation. They talk about Sunday afternoon blues as the sun sinks along with the teachers’ hearts.
They laugh at old escapades, teacher and student, and amaze themselves once again that no student necks were “wrung.”
[ATA (According to Anne) - If you wonder about the phrase, “wring your/his/her neck,” it seems to come from the common chicken death process. Wring dates back to 1300’s, Old English. It’s tied to wrangle. Not to ringer or dead ringer which is American slang, probably emerged from horse racing and the substituting of one horse (probably a superior one) for another, outside the rules. Dead here means “absolute, exact, complete.” You’ll hear that use in “Dead right, you’re going to do that.” Not a death threat.
[We certainly do keep a ring of violence, often deadly violence, in our speech. Cheers at ballgames back this up: “Kill ‘em, Smash ‘em, Grind ‘em up, Beat ‘em to a pulp…” We casually say, “I’d kill for that jacket.” Well, it has happened.
[As a reader of detective fiction, an avid reader, I don’t know the explanation for the draw of the deadly. Our news broadcasts sometimes seem to be crime coverage, weather, and sports. We’re interested in violence, particularly deadly. We find some aspect of it entertaining and even amusing. Hence the murder mysteries, the drift of violence into common language. Perhaps we’re merely children poking at the window shade on a dark night.]
ONLINE DEPARTMENT (Thanks, JA) They're back! Those wonderful church bulletins! Thanks to church ladies with typewriters. These sentences (with all the BLOOPERS) actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services [NOT locally] • The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals. • The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water”' The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus” • Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. • Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you. • Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help. • Miss Charlene Mason sang “I Will Not Pass This Way Again”, giving obvious pleasure to the congregation. • For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs. • Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get. • Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days. • A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow. • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice. • Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones. • Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children. • Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered. • The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility. • Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow. • The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon. • This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin. • Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done. • The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday. • Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door. • The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy. • Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance. • The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.’
Now as to the question asked – it seems we are people more interested in our appearance, our houses, our boats, our cars, our trucks, than in our vocabulary, grammar, and usage. We are content to communicate rudely (crudely and cruelly), to insist our language habits “g’d nuff fer ma paw, g’d nuff fer me,” a solecism we’d never utter about our refrigerator or TV or Blue Tooth whatever. OR AIR CONDITIONING! We are people who know more about eye shadow and hair coloring than subject-verb agreement. We know more about soap opera than irregular verb parts and their correct usage.
This is by choice; compulsory education has been in place a long time for almost everyone living in this country. Students have failed to acknowledge the importance of what they have been asked to learn. By pushing the rudiments of good language away to a box labeled “For Nerds Only”(earlier version would read “For Bookworms Only”) children are encouraged by home and by peers (whose acceptance is the most highly valued thing in education) not to “bother” with good language habits, written and spoken.
The challenge to excellence is ignored in language, though not elsewhere. Even teachers of other subjects speak and write a dismal patrois. This is by choice. The material, developed by humans through the centuries, is ordinary, diurnal stuff – no formulas by Einstein to master. Good grammar and usage is a habit, much easier to cultivate than most. And small lapses are forgiven.
Happy Father’s Day!