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Last post Author Topic: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit  (Read 17488 times)

housetier

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This is a rather good slam of an old grammar book, "The Elements of Style" from 1959.

This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents.

or

Of the four pairs of examples offered to show readers what to avoid and how to correct it, a staggering three out of the four are mistaken diagnoses.

or

Several generations of college students learned their grammar from the uninformed bossiness of Strunk and White, and the result is a nation of educated people who know they feel vaguely anxious and insecure whenever they write "however" or "than me" or "was" or "which," but can't tell you why.

read 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice


I find it very good. And it is very readable for me as a non-native speaker. I think I'll be watching chronicle.com for more articles to improve grammar and style.

What's your take? Do you hesitate to use "however", do you avoid "which" at the beginning of a sentence at all costs? Do you think your English education in school was sufficient?

cranioscopical

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2009, 07:49:12 PM »
What's your take? Do you hesitate to use "however", do you avoid "which" at the beginning of a sentence at all costs? Do you think your English education in school was sufficient?

Which question to answer was a hard choice, however there are more here to respond than me.    ;)

Darwin

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2009, 09:54:47 PM »
What's your take? Do you hesitate to use "however", do you avoid "which" at the beginning of a sentence at all costs? Do you think your English education in school was sufficient?

Which question to answer was a hard choice, however there are more here to respond than me.    ;)


Wow! The above is REALLY cringe-inducing (WRT grammatical construction). Bravo  :Thmbsup:

 ;D
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

cranioscopical

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2009, 10:36:18 PM »
Wow! The above is REALLY cringe-inducing (WRT grammatical construction)
I don't got no skulin'!


johanna0507

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2009, 08:02:52 AM »
LOL, do they have to get to COLLEGE (uni) level to learn basic grammar rules like that???!!!
I am not even a native speaker but I knew this stuff when I was ~13...
 
No wonder the US is losing its' status as a super power!!

cyberdiva

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2009, 08:41:18 AM »
LOL, do they have to get to COLLEGE (uni) level to learn basic grammar rules like that???!!!
I am not even a native speaker but I knew this stuff when I was ~13...
 
No wonder the US is losing its' status as a super power!!
Er, um, perhaps you intended your last sentence as humor, but...there should never be an apostrophe after the "s" in "its," and the only time there should be one after the "t" is when "it's" means "it is."   ;)
« Last Edit: April 18, 2009, 08:53:15 AM by cyberdiva »

nudone

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2009, 11:45:18 AM »
as a native English man, i can tell you that my grammar skills are almost zero. just another example of the arrogance we have on these shores, i.e. it's "our" language, we don't need to know how it works.

i've also found that a lot of things i thought were "correct" english are just colloquialisms. i can thank Tim Smith for making me aware of all that - not that i can remember any of it now.

mouser

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2009, 11:52:37 AM »
I can't claim to be a grammar expert, or a devotee of Strunk+White.. And I found the critique article very entertaining.. BUT it really does seem like it's overplaying the criticisms of this classic book for effect.

Leafing through my copy, I'm reminded of the pleasure of reading it.  It can't compare to Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, which is truly one of the rare language treasures of the world, but it's a good book.  The problem is only if you take it as an absolute inviolable set of rules. There are a ton of rules and guidelines and suggestions and examples in the Strunk+White book, and most are very nicely presented, clear, and satisfying.

MilesAhead

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2009, 12:20:32 PM »
The one saving grace of language is that it changes with usage. If your grammar is horrid, get as many people as you can to copy your style.  If enough of you are "wrong" together, then you'll be "right." ;)

I thought they called it "grammar school" because they taught you that elementary crap there.  Not in university. Anyway, I don't correct other people's grammar because I'm too busy trying to convince them that Cable TV and Cell Phones weren't always "just there" like the sun, moon, oceans and air. :)

They know I'm trying to snow them though.  They're not falling for it!


cranioscopical

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2009, 12:59:16 PM »
I thought they called it "grammar school" because they taught you that elementary crap there
No, they are so called because of the courses designed to teach young ladies how to be come old ones.

nosh

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2009, 01:36:14 PM »
as a native English man, i can tell you that my grammar skills are almost zero.

:)

Reminded me of an interesting quote:
Quote
"A British advertising man with a proper education can make magazine copy for ribbed condoms sound like the Magna goddam Carta." - Stephen King

My favorite quote (by far):
Quote
"Loosers!!!" - Internets


app103

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2009, 03:38:40 PM »
Well, I guess there was at least one benefit that came from never finishing high school and attending college: I was never exposed to this book or its advice.  8)

MilesAhead

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2009, 04:04:33 PM »
I thought they called it "grammar school" because they taught you that elementary crap there
No, they are so called because of the courses designed to teach young ladies how to be come old ones.


Oh that clears it up. I thought it was an award for creating the most insipid music available for purchase. ;)

kartal

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2009, 01:16:03 AM »
Actually grammar is a relative construct by human beings, it is unnatural. I would  say that do not rely on grammar much. Grammar kills the language and puts it in a box. Grammar is elitist and creates class division.  Let languages flourish as they want to be. I hope it makes sense. I am an anti-grammar guy, really :) 

Forced grammar rules makes sense only for artificial languages like computer languages(since you want to make sure that machines understand them ). Grammar should be studied as scientific study no question about it. But the learned facts from such studies should not be imposed on people. It is dictatorial in some sense to me. Some guys claim to be an expert on language start dictating what is right what is wrong. In fact anyone who can speak a language could be called an expert on that language since you cannot use a tool unless you know how to use it.







« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 01:26:53 AM by kartal »

Eóin

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2009, 04:04:16 AM »
Not sure I'd agree there kartal, there has to be a 'right' way to say things otherwise the ambiguities of language would get out of hand. Also language rules were not decided by some elitist, they evolved over time with the language as spoken by whole populations. Who are we in this generation to turn our backs on the rules of a language much more ancient than ourselves.

And surely grammar is no more unnatural than language itself, they always go hand in hand.

nudone

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2009, 06:09:24 AM »
i'm out of touch, but having read things like Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct some years back i don't think it's right to say grammar is an artificial construct. Seems quite innate, with an underlying "universal" grammar that all languages grow from.

(i'm sure there will be DCer's around here that know far more about it. i bet Mr. Pinker isn't even the champion of that movement anymore.)

edit:
Erm, is "universal grammar" Chomsky's thing? i know i've heard it somewhere.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 08:17:07 AM by nudone »

techidave

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2009, 06:59:45 AM »
Even if I could speak or write perfect English, who would know? :lol: :lol:

cranioscopical

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2009, 10:20:38 AM »
Even if I could speak or write perfect English, who would know? :lol: :lol:
Judging from DoCo in general, mainly those for whom English is not their first language.
We native English speakers do have a technique for helping others to understand our tongue -- that is to speak louder.   ;)



[edit: Still too inept to proof read before committing. *sigh*]
« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 11:04:55 AM by cranioscopical »

edbro

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2009, 10:57:43 AM »
I hesitate to write this because I know it won't go over well but I've got a thick skin and can take the flame.

I don't mean this as a critique at all. But, if you want to be known as educated through the proper use of the language, then you need to refrain from swear words when they are not needed (as in the thread title). I'm not a prude and I've been known to throw a few swear words out there myself, after all, I spent 28 years in the military. But, I've come to realize that swearing only served to reflect negatively on myself.

I don't go around criticizing swear words on the net but, if the thrust of this article is how to speak properly then I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the irony of using curse words in the title.

kartal

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2009, 12:07:39 PM »
Again, you are using someone else`s authority to prove a point meanwhile my whole point was opposite of that. Grammar is a reverse engineering process and it will never be a perfect copy of the original language.

Most of the literature mankind admire were written in times when grammar was not imposed on man like this. I hope it makes sense.

Having lived in the States for a while I see that especially here the English grammar is imposed on people and used as a tool to create unintentional class divisions and social lines. Because it ends up like those who can speak the language well(means those who follows the grammar) and those who can`t.

In last 200 years the mankind learned alot more about languages, sounds, grammar etc and but are we speaking better than those who did 2000-1000 years ago?  The more you try to talk a perfect language the more robotic it would be. And compared to the words of past I am sure many will recognize  how infertile our language structures has become, in our native tongues or others.


No child in the world learn a language through grammar and elitist rules. There is really no grammar there are only organic vague patterns in languages and those patterns should not be imposed on people. And those are the patterns picked up by children naturally. Do you think that Mr Pinker learned the universal grammar before the English language when he was 2 years old?




 

i'm out of touch, but having read things like Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct some years back i don't think it's right to say grammar is an artificial construct. Seems quite innate, with an underlying "universal" grammar that all languages grow from.

(i'm sure there will be DCer's around here that know far more about it. i bet Mr. Pinker isn't even the champion of that movement anymore.)

edit:
Erm, is "universal grammar" Chomsky's thing? i know i've heard it somewhere.

edbro

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #20 on: April 19, 2009, 12:16:25 PM »
I disagree. I believe there has to be right ways to use the language and wrong ways. Just because one learns the wrong way from your parents doesn't automatically make it the right way. If you go to a poor, uneducated neighborhood you will hear the language spoken very differently than you would from a well-to-do and educated neighborhood. I will argue that just because you weren't taught the proper way to use the language doesn't make improper language proper. I doubt a book written in ebonics would ever be considered a literary classic.

kartal

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #21 on: April 19, 2009, 12:27:01 PM »
There is no difference between you and uneducated person. Statistical differences are artificial. An educated person might know 10.000 words meanwhile so called uneducated person might know only 2000. It makes no difference and should not be used to create "division" among societies.

So are you saying that a myth or story written or told by an african tribe that only uses 500 words cannot be called art of man? I think you might be surprised to know how much knowledge and wisdom can be fit in couple words or sentences. By making such claims you are blocking those people`s chance to create something.

I know it is very hard to convince some educated people about these issues because whole point of education is to season and structure people. I am not against education or something but sometimes I feel like people who call themslves educated became more strict and less free thinkers during their education when it comes to issues like that. Unfortunately critical thinking is not part of our perfect education systems and classes.

There is a right way to talk any language called the natural way which is learned and practiced by human cognition unconsciously. I support any attempt to understand such process, I am just against social, political and humanistic implications of those results. I hope it makes sense


 

« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 12:33:51 PM by kartal »

J-Mac

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #22 on: April 19, 2009, 12:38:33 PM »
Not sure I'd agree there kartal, there has to be a 'right' way to say things otherwise the ambiguities of language would get out of hand. Also language rules were not decided by some elitist, they evolved over time with the language as spoken by whole populations. Who are we in this generation to turn our backs on the rules of a language much more ancient than ourselves.

And surely grammar is no more unnatural than language itself, they always go hand in hand.

Does following all the grammar rules really help eliminate ambiguities? And yes, the "language rules" were indeed decided by some elitists. The problem with such pedantry is that you seem to wish to disallow any further evolution of the language by preventing this generation, or any for that matter, from adding to the evolution.

Listen to Stephen Fry's podcasts on language. Very interesting.

Jim

edbro

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #23 on: April 19, 2009, 12:43:33 PM »
An educated person might know 10.000 words meanwhile so called uneducated person might know only 2000. It makes no difference and should not be used to create "division" among societies.
The breadth of vocabulary is not the same as knowing proper grammar. You can use proper grammar knowing only a couple of hundred words. I don't think that knowing how to speak properly is used to create class divisions any more than knowing calculus is.

If you were going to read the Wall Street Journal for investment research, which would you tend to trust more:
- "We believe the future of the economy is on the upswing"
- "We be thinkin yo gonna have mo money nex year"
« Last Edit: April 19, 2009, 12:45:47 PM by edbro »

J-Mac

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Re: for the past 50 years, American students were taught bullshit
« Reply #24 on: April 19, 2009, 12:47:13 PM »
An educated person might know 10.000 words meanwhile so called uneducated person might know only 2000. It makes no difference and should not be used to create "division" among societies.
The breadth of vocabulary is not the same as knowing proper grammar. You can use proper grammar knowing only a couple of hundred words. I don't think that knowing how to speak properly is used to create class divisions any more than knowing calculus is.

If you were going to read the Wall Street Journal for investment research, which would you tend to trust more:
- "We believe the future of the economy is on the upswing"
- "We be thinkin yo gonna have mo money nex year"

The economy? In the US? Whom to believe??  Bad example!

Jim