Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Degradation of the English Language: A Rant

Dear friends, we are gathered here today to commemorate the untimely passing of the word, "fewer." Once a well-accepted term to describe the frequency of matters, "fewer" became the victim of a decline in the English language, being usurped by its cousin, "less." This disturbing trend, increasingly found in the media, ultimately led to the passing from the scene of this once-valuable term.

OK, so, maybe that's a bit extreme; but anyone who lives in our household has probably gotten used to hearing me growl, "fewer!" when some talking head -- especially on the news -- uses "less" when the proper term would be, well, "fewer." For example, a report on the state of the U.S. economy that aired not too long ago mentioned that the economic stimulus plan had generated less jobs than expected. (It's painful even to type that...) No, no, NO!!! The plan has created FEWER jobs!!! Sigh. Generations of English teachers must be spinning in their graves...

Speaking of the degradation of the English language... One phrase that I hear on the news all the time lately is, "Take a listen." Now, for whatever reason, "take a look at this" doesn't bother me at all; but "take a listen to this" sets my teeth on edge. I hear it, and I want to SCREAM! Why does anyone want to say, "Take a listen" when "Listen to this" is every bit as effective without being offensive? Or am I being too sensitive?

President George W. Bush honors {{w|William Sa...Image via Wikipedia

Years ago, a well-respected newspaper columnist, William Safire, regularly wrote, in addition to his comments on the larger issues of politics, the economy, world affairs, and the like, a column in which he tried valiantly to hold the line against the erosion of the English language. I miss those columns... I don't know the language well enough to try to emulate him -- grammar was never my strength; it's all based on what "sounds good" to me -- but that doesn't mean that there is not a need for someone to take up the burden...

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