ODDS & ENDS
The King's English... Does Anyone Care?
The Tall-Tale-Tellin' Tennessean mourns the passing of dignified speech.
by Donna Guffey
February 7, 2004
I don’t usually take offense at the way people talk... in fact, I kind of like to try to identify where people are from by listening to the way they say their words... Bostonians by the way they say “car”... “caih”... New England states (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, etc.) by the “r’s” at the end of words that usually end with an “a”... or the “ah” sound... Or the difference in Southern Dialects... “Darling”... is... “Dah-lin’”... “Da-ar-lin’”... “Doar-lin’”... or... “Dallin”... Depending on which Southern State you’re in... So you see... I think it’s interesting and amusing to hear the pronunciations or even mispronunciations of words and phrases... it adds color and personality to the language... HOWEVER... We all do KNOW when it’s wrong!!
Now please don’t misunderstand me... I love accents... all of them... and believe me... I have a real East Tennessee “twang” myself... But I do have a real problem with some of the changes that have occurred in every day language! Regardless of region... North, South, New England, West Coast... it is happening everywhere... all over this country... and is now the “norm”! In fact, most young people today don’t even know the CORRECT pronunciation of so many common words!! And the sad fact is... their teachers didn’t feel compelled to correct them... and it has gone “uncorrected” for so long now….that it’s actually become the correct way to talk!!
For example... the word “pool”... I was taught that the vowel sound “oo”... as in “moo”... or... “coo”... was the correct way to pronounce the word “pool”... as in the word “moon”. But NO... I NEVER hear THAT sound associated with THAT word in this day and time... instead it’s “pu-wull”...!!
WHERE IN THE WORLD DID THAT COME FROM????
Was some “Valley Girl” or a misplaced “Southern Belle” responsible for that???? Or was it some insecure “Flutter-by” trying to imitate the social “Butterfly”???
It caught on and STUCK!! And the trouble is... they did it to the word “cool” as well... it is now... “cuuh-wull”...!!! At least they’ve left alone, the word “soon”... I’d sure hate to have to listen to some 13 year old saying... “ Come back to see me “suh-wun!” Yuck!!!!
Another one? How about “wolf”...!!! W-O-L-F... wolf... NOT... “wuf”... and definitely NOT... “woof”... and you ought to hear what they’ve done to the plural of the word!!! Wolves??? No way!!! It’s “Wufs”! Sounds like something you wear around your neck in cold weather!!! One of my daughter’s friends has a definite Ohio accent... and I LOVE Ohioans... (They have one of the most distinctive and interesting accents I’ve ever heard... EXCEPT for the word “wolf”!) I asked her... “Where’s the “L”...??” She said... “It’s silent!” What I want to know is... WHERE IN ANY TEXT BOOK IS ANY “L” SILENT!!! Sooooo... WHO authorized that change??? And WHY???
Let’s try the word “to” or “too”... it has now become “tew”!!! But Thank Goodness, it only happens when the speaker forgets to use the word “also” !! This one really irks me... sounds like someone is trying to put on “airs”!!! I noticed tonight that even the local Weather Lady was guilty of this one... talk about grammar??? “Looks like we’re going to see rain Thursday night and Friday night... tew!!!” I shuddered for a full ten minutes...!!
Now... here’s one that’s sort of “iffy”... “Tournament”... could possibly be... “toornament”... but there’s no way that “quarter” could ever be “corter”... Whew!!! (Before you know it... THAT one’s gonna be “Whe-you”!!!)
Well... as you can see when you read this article... that I don’t necessarily use proper grammar... and I think I rather like “fragmented phrases and sentences”... I speak that way too...(tew) (also) (as well)...!!!! In fact... at times... my speech is... quite fragmented... like some of my thoughts!!! But again... that’s color, texture, accent... or whatever adjective you want to use to describe it... and I always KNOW when it’s incorrect!!!
Now I realize that our English language today is very different from the English language of just a few hundred years ago... did any of us understand Beowulf?? (There’s that “wolf” again... but I don’t hear anyone calling it “Beo-WUF”!!!) Or more recently... Shakespeare?? So... I’m really not knockin’ the evolution of our language... I guess it’s the natural order of things... and that 300 years from now, only historians will probably be able to read these words... much less be able to pronounce them!
But the mispronunciation of words is only a small part of the picture... and probably a whole lot of people would say that my preoccupation with the pronunciation of certain words borders on the neurotic... But it saddens me to know that such a large percentage of our young people speak our language EXACTLY the SAME! (Except for Brooklyn... I don’t think anyone from Brooklyn need ever fear being absorbed into the “language melting pot”!!)
I’m not exactly sure when all this came about... but it seems that just about everyone under the age of 25 speaks in this rapid-fire, high pitched nasal monotone... guys and girls alike... with a question mark at the end of each pause...!!! What are they questioning? That’s usually the only part of the conversation I understand... the question mark at the end!!!
So what’s my REAL problem???
Oh... I do mourn the passing of the “dignified spoken word”... and the near demise of the well-written story... I regret that so many will never really NOTICE the taste of consonants, vowels and syllables... and will never SEE the color of adjectives and adverbs in their every-day conversations!
But most of all…..I regret that no one will tell them that “L’s” are NOT silent!!!!
Donna Guffey... "The Tall-Tale-Tellin' Tennessean"
About the Author:
Donna Guffey is one of the 3 sisters of the Western Singing Group... Sisters of the Silver Sage and the oldest of the six daughters of the late, great... Smoky White... fiddle-player Extraordinaire!! Her tall tale-tellin' began long ago with stories about her colorful family. And when their new website needed something to draw people back... she came up with The Wildwood Ranch News... and the Sister Shenanigans... where all these newsletters are published regularly! She is also an Award-Winning Songwriter with the Academy of Western Artists... and says Texas Don't have Anything on Tennessee for tall-tale tellin'! You can check the website at: www.sistersofthesilversage.com.
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