John Dryden started the fuss over proper English and the fuss lives on. To review The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution Of “Proper” English, from Shakespeare to South Park by John Lynch one should be either a war correspondent or at least a contributor on occasion to NPR. Certainly no serious scholar would want near the topic except–well we will not go into that list.
If you enjoy writing and don’t shop for reading material at Walmart, you may delight in this book. The tricks and tribulations will not be new to you, but it is organized into a nice series of lectures. All the marquee villains are named.
My first teaching job was language arts, 7th and 8th grades, in a Southern location I shall not name. Although thankful for the job I did not know how to teach. I stressed spelling lists, grammar tests, and diagraming. The principal could only do what the superintendent told him to do, and neither good man knew how to teach language arts. If they had known and passed it on to me, all three of us would have been out of jobs. My only redemption comes from my confidence I had no lasting affect on the students and I did not in any way damage cotton, rice, and bean production. I probably fulfilled their expectations of me.
Despite the author’s admonition that I keep my head down and powder dry, I must sound the alarm at what I find among students. First, boys to young men do not remove their caps once inside either private or public spaces. Second, women wear sleeves and pant legs far too long. Their hands are lost in droopy sleeves and the bottoms of their pant and jean legs look like they have just finished their farm chores. Third, both young sexes wear too much metal. Please, a modicum of restraint. One pair of ear studs or small gold rings, but not both. And one optional nipple ring. Nothing more. These current distasteful displays have much to do with improper English for we all know where language leads bad manners and debasement follow. Charles Marlin