Bad English

16 11 2008

This is not what I had in mind when I imagined Neener and Roo saying ‘bad words.’ Sure, I expected the hysterical giggling. The marker covered hands flitting over their yogurt-caked lips in the most feeble attempt to keep the forbidden words from tumbling off their tongues. I expected them to flout my authority and flaunt their rebellion by shouting those obscenities out at the breakfast table. For them to watch my reaction, and to delight in my mock shock. To be egged on by my inadequately hidden amusement. But I did not expect the first bad words out of their mouths to be quite so appalling. I never imagined I’d hear my children say the word ain’t.

Yeah, that’s what they’re picking up from the kids in school these days. I was all ready for them to come home with real ‘bad words’, which, as you may have guessed, I personally adore and can not wait to appropriately incorporate into the lexicon of my offspring. But Ain’t, I don’t got no, no I nevered? That shit makes my obsessively editorial, English-major self writhe and shudder far more than any mere expletive ever could. And, it has forced me to explain to my kids that poor grammar makes you sound like you don’t know no better. Like maybe you ain’t no more smarter than the empty milk cartons you brang home from school. All the while trying to be careful not to imply that the kids who speak that way – and the adults who allow it – don’t got no brains neither.

As a writer, I’m a firm believer in breaking rules and pushing boundaries. There is certainly a place in good creative writing and speaking for double negatives, made-up words, and even the odd ain’t. But I also believe that you must know the rules before you can go around breaking them. And that the appropriate place for such words is not in the mouths and minds of my five and a half year olds. So, when one of them drops the ain’t-bomb, or butchers a verb, or lets fly a double negative in the heat of the moment, I do the only thing I can to avoid coming off like an anal retentive, lecturing language snob: I turn it into a joke. I flip into a theatrical Queen of England pontification, espousing the extreme importance of proper grammar, and then break into a face-contorting, foot-stomping, elbow-flapping  singing of “There ain’t no flies on me/There ain’t no flies on me/ There might be flies on some of your guys/But there ain’t no flies on me” , channelling my very best Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel. This lets me simultaneously teach them a bit about good grammar, but it also lets me do something even more important: threaten to boot their little arses if I ever hear them say “No I nevered” again.

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12 responses

16 11 2008
Katie

I laugh because you would have to end up with Mr. Blister, who also “growed up” with our British grandfather who would correct us in a second if we didn’t use proper english! It drives me nuts when people mix up “few than/less than”, but most of all, when people say……..”I seen”…AHHHHH!

17 11 2008
Leanne

I ain’t never seen such a post as this! Well said. 🙂

17 11 2008
Papa and nanny

For ddad,it’s number/amount. He rails at the gods about the misuse of these two rogues.somebody should tell certain cbc people about that one. Me, I don’t pay no nevermind.Itaught primary.I’ve heard it all and tried to correct it. At least I got through to you!

17 11 2008
Papa and nanny

Oh yeah! I corrected my principal about “brang” one time and he argued with me until I showed it to himin a grammar book. That one drives me nuts!
mom

17 11 2008
Miranda

I love your blog!

18 11 2008
roxferry

When I seen this article it brang to mind all the things your kids can does in their lives time and sayin “ain’t”…that ain’t so bad.

18 11 2008
domesticblister

Ahhh,but ain’t is the root of all badness, Rox! As the old rhyme goes…Don’t say ain’t, your mother will faint. Your father will fall in a bucket of paint. Your brother will die, your sister will cry, and you dog will join the FBI! All that trouble starts with one little word…..lol.

19 11 2008
Aunt MaryLou

People who say “off of” (when all is required is “off”) especially on news broadcasts, drive me to distraction. The other one is using “affect and effect” at the wrong times–the two have very different meanings! The best one I heard lately on radio was, “The temperature has rose two degrees in the last hour!” I guess I spent too many years proofreading!

19 11 2008
Lisa

How ’bout irregardless instead of regardless.

Hey, Miss. Grammar: What do you think of using the word “bad” instead of “badly” i.e. I felt bad that he didn’t do well on the test. My (equally literate) friend says that this is the correct usage.

19 11 2008
domesticblister

Ack, irregardless!! The temperature has rose?!? Bad grammar abounds. Sometimes I think about practicing random acts of editing on the world.

Hmmm, not sure on the bad/badly one…I can see instances where bad would certainly be right, as in “Going out drinkin’ and smokin’ and riding on motorcycles makes me feel ever so bad.” and i know I say “I feel bad without ever thinking twice. That is certainly one that would require some investigation.

19 11 2008
Aunt Mary Lou

Bad–adjective; badly–adverb. Adverbs are used when you can answer any of these questions: When? Where? How? Why? How much? How little? I still remember these from my Business English teacher days!

20 11 2008
Papa and nanny

What can you do when your family is, not only filled with teachers, but teachers who were raised on the books”Using Our Langauge”! I love this blog!

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