Could we have a word?

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By John Pawlak

Why is it that so many people want English to be our “national language” but they can’t speak or write it properly themselves?
You can have your cake and eat it too, right? But if you have a cake, what’s the big deal about eating it?
What people should say is, “You can eat your cake and have it, too.”
And what’s with too? To? Two? There are two too many to’s in our language. And of course, there’s the tutu.
English is really messed up. That’s what I like about math. Well, yeah, that’s messed up too (or two?), but at least I know what’s being said when someone speaks math.
English is a different animal altogether (or maybe more like a vegetable). After a quiz, asked a student how she thought she did. She said, “I did good.”
“So, you did some charity work while I wasn’t watching?”
I explained, “Helping out others is doing good. On a quiz, you do well, not good.” She nodded (a monosynaptic defensive reflex used by students to get teachers to leave them alone) and said, “OK, I did well,” to which I replied, “Well, it’s good that you did well.”
Back in high school, I didn’t appreciate the subtle humor woven throughout the DNA strands of English grammar.
My English teacher smiled and instructed the class on proper grammar, “You never use a preposition to end a sentence with.”
At the time, that went right over my head. Who would have thought that Mrs. Herzitger would actually tell a joke in lit class? I wonder if Shakespeare used to crack funnies about the misuse of grammar?
“O, wicked Sirrah, methinks you doth applied a dangling participle in a non-restrictive clause! O, comical fate! Ho ho ho!”
Yeah, that Shakespeare was a real cut-up.
It defies all odds that humans can learn English. Rules, rules of exceptions to the rules, and exceptions to the exception rules. Adverbs versus adjectives. Qualifiers and quantifiers. Transitive and intransitive.
And it’s a mystery why anyone even tries to communicate using this language. Consider the instructions on a clothes drying machine. “When light turns off, remove all your clothes.”
Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t admit that I never did understand instructions like that.
But let’s be honest. Do you really care if someone splits an infinitive? Was it arrogant for Captain Kirk to boldly go when no grammarian had gone before? How important is it to avoid cliches like the plague? Should people? be punished? for overuse of punctuation
Since its early inception, English’s popularity has soared throughout the centuries. But the English we use today bears little resemblance to that of yesteryear.
Consider the poem “Beowulf,” written in Old English:

Hwaet. We Gardena in gear-dagum, peodcyninga, prym gefrunon, hu oa aepelingas ellen fremedon.

Yeah, that was English. And you thought learning the quadratic equation in math class was difficult?
Next came Middle English (a thousand years ago). It wasn’t much better. Psalm 23 read, “Lauerd me steres, noght wante sal me. In stede of fode bare me louked he.”
And finally, about four hundred years ago, Modern English began to develop. Once adopted by commoners (peons like you and me - or is it you and I?), it quickly took the form of its current incarnation.
And wouldn’t you know it? I start understanding the language and it’s changing again. BBL. FWIW. YMMV.
What’s all this mean? To tell the truth, IDK. But IMHO, I don’t think it’ll end well.
Acronyms are bad enough, but the abbreviated text speak is truly frustr8n. im sur u cn c wat i meen.
And did you konw taht you can jmulbe the seplinlg of wrods and sitll be albe to raed tehm?
So, do you speak English well or good? Are you profishent at spelin? Do you speaks correctly grammar?
Whatever your take is on this, American English is certainly our own. But, really, would anyone else really want it?
As they say, some people have a way with words, and others not have way.

John Pawlak