When I was growing up in the Philippines, my parents insisted that we speak English as a first language at home. They then sent me to schools that supported that orientation. I learned Tagalog as a second language at school and a smattering of Spanish at home as a third. My parents believed that when I grew older I would travel, and that proper English would be the key to professional and personal fulfillment.
My parents were right. I make my living as a writer in America.
It’s too bad that America is the land of Ain’t.
I don’t know how the word ain’t evolved. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s take a few samples of current idioms from advertising and media:
“…me and my Outback are ready for anything…” (Subaru Outback radio commercial)
“Verizon Wireless has five times more 3G coverage than AT&T.” (Verizon Wireless print ad & TV commercial)
“Brought to you directly from local ‘Fresidents’” (Fresno Scene magazine web site)
My grammar and spelling are by no means perfect. I often have to run to the AP Stylebook, Webster’s Dictionary, or MS Word’s spelling and grammar check utility to resolve some of my issues. Resolution usually only takes seconds.
But I do know when a sentence is wrong.
My English and Communications teachers would have given me an F if these examples of current patois ever appeared in my term papers, articles or scripts.
Poetic license. It’s the excuse most frequently invoked by marketing-type people when participles dangle, subjects and verbs disagree, headlines have too many characters. It’s unfortunate the resulting composition falls far short of any definition of poetry. (I do concede: “I can’t get no satisfaction” works. I’m a Rolling Stones fan.)
“…my Outback and I are ready…”
“Verizon Wireless 3G covers five times as much ground as AT&T.”
“Brought to you directly by local ‘Fresidents’”
It’s not difficult to express a thought in proper English. As a communications professional, I believe I have a responsibility to protect and respect the language that provides my livelihood.
I am compelled to set a good example for my audience to follow. While I can’t impose that sentiment on everyone, I, for one, will continue to write in English.