Me And My Bad Grammar

Barney My Family’s Just Right for Me Part 1 – YouTubeBarney I am sorry to start this story with one of the most obnoxious TV toddlers shows on earth but nearly all the toddler TV shows are hideous, obnoxious, and degrading.  I never, ever let my children watch this stuff.  The problem isn’t just these TV shows, it is how the illiterate use of ‘Me and…’ has spread noxiously via early childhood exposure, popular media and laziness in schools where children are no longer corrected when making common grammatical errors.

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One of the most serious collapses of proper use of pronouns, one of the most irritating, common errors in general, has been the spread of the use of ‘Me and (fill in the blank).  Whenever a person is talking about themselves and any other person or thing, they automatically start off with ‘Me and…’  This is a habit that has grown worse and worse over time.  It has always irritated me.  It now alarms me for it is warping the English language and is destroying the very basis of grammatical construction.

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This way of expressing oneself occurs in various songs from the lower depths of society, that is, illiterate and semi-illiterate people feel comfortable talking this way.  This slowly seeped into the upper strata of society via popular culture via say, The Beatles when they sang, ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey,’ for example.  

And then there is the simultaneous release in the late 1960’s of  Me and Bobby McGee  by Janis Joplin, a working class singer who died very young.

Like the spread of tattoos from the cellar to the penthouse, bad grammar has spread, too.  When pop culture latches onto something, it spreads like wildfire since the purveyors of pop culture know how to pitch it to children.  We see this with the gangsta culture.  It has been spread like weeds and has nearly totally taken over our youth at the bottom and the morality and attitude has taken over the very top 1% children turning them eventually, top and bottom, into dangerous criminals.

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Using ‘me and…’ is impolite.  That is, the entire reason we have an order of precedence in speaking is to show deference in language.  That is, putting oneself first is impolite.  ‘My friends and I are going to the store,’ is correct because one shows some slight lessening of the ego by placing the associates first rather than second.  The confusion within language use by taking this all-around short cut in grammar plus putting oneself first degrades not just language but the concept of politeness.

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I know from once living in the slums, when I was struggling to start off in life, the concept of politeness is near the vanishing point due to a host of sociological and cultural reasons.  It is usually a climate of dog eat dog ethics where people who want to survive are loud, defensive, often angry (and for good reason, many times) and careless.  Teaching proper grammar to children raised in this environment is a huge challenge.  And has failed pretty miserably due to pop culture being all about the rude and crude.

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The hyper-nannies of the elites at the NYT are talking about how TV destroys baby’s brains and teaches them bad lessons in life.  A glimpse at the Barney video at the top should convince any sane person to turn off the TV when toddlers are around!  Anyways, in today’s news there is a warning about toddler TV:  TV Limits for Children Urged by American Academy of Pediatrics – NYTimes.com.  What struck me hard in this article was this paragraph:

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“We try very hard not to do that, but because both me and my husband work, if we’re at home and have to take a work call, then yes, I’ll try to put her in front of ‘Sesame Street’ for an hour,” Kristin Gagnier, a postgraduate student in Philadelphia, said of her 2-year-old daughter. “But she only stays engaged for about 20 minutes.”

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This is a postgraduate student talking to a major reporter!  She talks like a teenager defying her mom.  And she is not only a full adult now, she is not only a mother, herself, she is as highly-educated an elite as is possible!  And yet, talks like an illiterate from the lowest levels of society.  English studies teachers in colleges all have noticed a steep decline in the ability to use language even as they are flooded with students wanting desperately to be published.

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Major media no longer uses editors to correct language.  I make mistakes here all the time due to not having an editor.  This is excusable to a degree due to lack of resources.  But to see the spread of this particular grammar habit is alarming since it makes people sound stupid.  Just as one doesn’t say, ‘Me go to the store,’ one cannot say, ‘Me and my friends go to the store.’  That is, when we saw Tarzan movies, for example, the way Tarzan learned English improperly was to say, ‘You Jane Me Tarzan – YouTube

One of the biggest things our school system did when it was presented with a flood of aliens during the 19th century was to insist they learn proper English, one way or another.  The same was done for the children used as field hands on farms and plantations.  They had to learn proper grammar so at least some of them could ‘float to the top’ at higher institutions or society.  In England, the elites kept their own children in special schools where they learned a peculiar style of speaking that was very ‘posh’, that is, deliberately set off from the lower orders.

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Then, even if they had no money and met in a jungle, they could identify each other via how they talked.  This proved most  useful in running a very extended empire.  It meant that the upper social classes had a social and linguistic code that would pull them together even when not at home, anymore.

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To this day, the gulf between the upper crust of society in England and the lower orders still is verbally quite severe.  The Beatles came from the lower levels, from the slums or the working class bee hives and they were cleaned up for presentation as pop idols and then revolted against this which is why their song about ‘Me and my monkey’ was a declaration of independence, that is, a return to their roots.

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But it is also a return to a linguistic trap.  In a misbegotten zeal to appear non-elitist, we see even teachers and highly educated administrators deliberately talking the wrong way in order to appeal to the masses as ‘one of you!’  Here is the official ‘education’ channel, this is how one finds Barney online:  Barney and Friends Music. Barney’s Me and My Family Song | PBS …Note how they use the ‘me and…’ here.  The actual lyrics don’t say that at all.  It is ‘My family and me.’  So why does PBS make this more illiterate, online?

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The examples of this abound online.  Here is another attempt at educating children using this noxious bad habit:  “JUST ME AND MY DAD” READ & PLAY STORY

It was easy to google other examples such as:  ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW.  Then, there is Hollywood, the machine that pushes pop culture to its outermost limits and then some:  Me and Orson Welles (2008) – IMDb

When Janis Joplin sang of ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, she was singing the blues which is pure black former slave underclass culture appropriated by the disowned ‘white trash’ who lived alongside and despised the black culture even while being totally submerged in it.

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Here is Universal issuing a video which acts as if it were from the slums when it isn’t anymore, the middle class youth have embraced the ghetto culture while remaining non-ghetto:  The Drums – Me And The Moon – YouTube.  This white bread music coupled with ‘street cred’ habits is typical of our culture today.

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Here are several examples pulled off the web, all of them upperclass or corporate, not ghetto:  Adam Pascal and Larry Edoff: Me and LarryMe & My Pen – Home,Kurumi’s ‘Me and The Roads’.Me and my MacMe and My Web Shadow: How to Manage Your Reputation Online, and Me And My Fake Girlfriend – Forbes.

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And then there is the Gray Lady, herself, the New York Times:  Changes for Me and Motherlode – NYTimes.com.  The Times loves to fuss about the use of language but wants to be ‘hip’ so this means, aping everyone rather than setting an example.  When I see the news or watch any number of things on TV, I see and hear this phrase, ‘Me and…’ all the time as a great way to launch a sentence.  It is so common, it is now eclipsing ‘cute’ as a way to talk about things.  I hate the use of the word, ‘cute’ as an overall descriptive exclamation.

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I once nearly went nuts trying to do something in a store not too long ago with  a gaggle of teen females squealing, ‘That’s cute!’ and its inevitable response, ‘Oh, cute!’ over and over again while looking at some photos.  Ouch.  My brain lost more than a few cells.  The alarming spread of ‘me and…’ has to be stopped, somehow.  But then, we are seeing much bigger problems afoot here so this looks small in comparison.  It is a symptom of a relaxation of culture, a dumbing down via TV of our language.

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Eventually, like in so many other societies that are failing (Roman Empire, for example) the collapse of grammar is a signifier of bigger collapses.  The inability to teach proper English in schools began long ago when the US decided to not integrate foreign students into the culture by indoctrinating them in proper English grammar.  Here is a random example of people wishing to kill of the art of sentence diagrams: Why Sentence Diagramming Does Not Make You Superior, An Argument In Support of Those Kids Today | Alas, a Blog.  The writer here fumes about people who worry about the lack of proper English usage.  The author hotly suggests that since people complained about lax standards in the past, it isn’t a problem today.

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She then uses examples from ancient Rome and ancient Greece.  Unfortunately, when the Greeks and Romans complained, this was during a real decline in the ability to use language.  That is, their cultures were rotting within and beginning to collapse.  It did lead to a degradation of the language!  And it did reveal the weaknesses of the empires!  Teachers are so terrified of correcting student’s bad grammar, they just want them to write something, anything.  So no one bothers with doing things correctly.

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Here is an astonishing article explaining how to teach grammar without teaching grammatical rules at all.  To Teach or Not to Teach (Grammar)-No Longer the Question, Teaching Today, Glencoe Online

 

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.There was a time, not so long ago, when virtually every high school English teacher who heard the word “grammar” could immediately recall Warriner’s, diagramming sentences, and endless skill and drill exercises.

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These teachers embraced the notion of prescriptive (also called traditional or school) grammar. Grammar was taught as a discrete set of rigid rules to be memorized, practiced, and followed.

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During the height of the whole language movement, when teaching grammar in isolation became taboo, these teachers were left frustrated and baffled by the lack of grammar instruction in the classroom.

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English teachers of later generations, on the other hand, joined the profession embracing ideas of descriptive (also called transformational) grammar. These teachers believed that grammar instruction should be matched to the purpose of the user. Teachers found descriptive grammar theories to be more flexible, reflecting actual usage and self-expression over “correct” structures.

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Some people credit the descriptive approach with a general loosening of rules regarding grammatical structures that were once considered unacceptable, such as split infinitives.

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That is, anything goes these days.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  Grammar is dead and gone.  Even at the New York Times, which still has editors, they feel the itch to copy bad grammar because it feels good.  ‘It feels OK to me,’ is the road to linguistic ruin trod by the Romans who saw their Latin language literally decay into French, Italian, Spanish, etc. sub-languages.  Which all are proud languages with grammar rules reimposed again during the last 300 long years!  English is a total mongrel language due to several key invasions of what was once Celtic England, first by the Romans then by Anglo-Saxons, then Norse and finally, Normans from France speaking a bastard form of Latin mixed with Norse, bizarre at this is.

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Due to this, English rules are much more convoluted than say, French language rules.  This is also why we have to be alert to a collapse in grammar with English.  It is so easy to wreck the sentence structure.  I do it, we all do it.  It is rampant.  And the use of short, short sentences is rampant, too.  I hate short sentences.  This is due to spending time in Germany, going to school there.  Germans love LONG sentences.  A paragraph in English is one sentence in German.  I can’t help it!  I want long sentences!  Yes!  Oops. Sorry.  I got a little carried away there.

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32 Comments

Filed under Politics, the arts

32 responses to “Me And My Bad Grammar

  1. Urban Roman

    “I hate short sentences.”

    Aww, Elaine, take it easy on yourself.

    Me want Barney to remember him is carnivore and top predator, and love childrens for breakfuss!

  2. melponeme_k

    I don’t watch television anymore because the internet is more interesting.

    My grandmother was the enforcer in the house for proper grammar. My family and I would always ask for her help on anything grammatical. She would also stringently scrub out any kind of New York accent popping up in my pronunciation as well. Which led to many people telling me that I didn’t sound American.

    I wish writers would craft sentences in the style of Edith Wharton as well. It isn’t going to happen because not only would writers not know how, but their readers would not understand their writing.

  3. payAttention

    ‘I make mistakes here all the time due to not having an editor. ‘

    Actually, the rouge trader was a fitting appraisal – it was a whore after all. I thought you did that by design.

    ‘the way Tarzan learned English improperly was to say…

    Johnny Weismuller was a great swimmer, so give him some slack. So was Phillip Hildebrand, who cares if he is a pathetic failure as a central banker. Otoh, selling off a thousand tonnes of gold at one fifth of today’s price may be a good trade, if gold goes down ninety percent from here.

    Finally, ‘post -graduate’ in what art of comely bullshit? My niece graduated with a hard science degree cum laude from a good state university. I will vouch that she has learned infinitely more than the post graduate in reclamation studies of post modern musical influences on poetic dystrophy amongst middle school children. My niece is on a waiting list for a teaching job. Her graduation looked and sounded like the casting set for Jersey Shore. Her department looked like a tiny set of wimps amongst the huge flocks of business and various and sundry majors, whose weight room credentials seemed impeccable. If this was high school, they probably would have been set upon and beaten for being smart alecks.

    Still..

    ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

    ELAINE: Me and my family (hahaha) extend our congratulations to her for successfully surviving school!

  4. csurge

    The internet responsible for the degradation, as well as the stupid cell phone speak that’s all the rage these days. My younger brother is a victim, and I am constantly correcting him on proper grammar and syntax. As Jules Winfield would say, “English, motherf#@&er! Do you speak it?”

    I never noticed how “Me and” is on the rise… but then I do try to stay away from real-time pop culture. I use other people to filter what I see and hear via the ‘new’ media.

    What’s your position on “ain’t”, Elaine?

  5. Bravo, Elaine. The latest news is that schools will not even teach penmanship – cursive.
    When things unravel, they go down fast.

  6. ‘spread of tattoos from the cellar to the penthouse…..’
    Id say from the prisons to general society

  7. tfoth

    “Me and Bobby McGee” was written by Kris Kristofferson, likely a CIA brat himself, Phi Beta Kappa literature student, and a Rhodes Scholar!

  8. Shawntoh

    It would not surprise me if Lizard King Jim Morrison was underneath that Barney costume. Beyond that…

    We need to have William Shatner re-record and correct the split infinitive for the opening of the old Star Trek series to be … “To go boldly where no man has gone”.

    ‘Stones should correct the song to say… “I can’t get any satisfaction.”

    Ricky Skaggs needs to correct his one song to “You got your heart broken”.

    So much work to do–never enough time!

    Peace

  9. jms723ith

    I liked this article, Elaine. I, too, was taught by prescriptive grammarians.

    The problem, I think, is that too many people going into education took (and still take) a linguistics course or two as an elective; linguists are all descriptive grammarians simply because that’s what they do: that discipline describes how various languages work rather than prescribing how they should be written and spoken.

    Educators should know better but teaching students proper English runs into a host of difficulties. It’s a lot of work, for one thing, and also runs afoul of poitical correctness in that all forms of English, no matter how mangled, are supposed to be as good as any other.

    Fortunately, you and I know better!

    And please don’t get me started on tattoos. Once upon a time, a tattoo was something a sailor got on his first drunken shore leave.

    You noted that “In England, the elites kept their own children in special schools where they learned a peculiar style of speaking that was very ‘posh’, that is, deliberately set off from the lower orders.”

    That actually speaks to something csurge said above about ‘ain’t’. In 19th-century Britain ‘ain’t’ and the dropped terminal ‘g’ were once markers of refined upper-class speech. But as soon as the middle and lower classes began speaking that way, Standard English no longer accomodated ‘aint’ as a pseudocontraction for “I am not” and the terminal ‘g’ had to be pronounced lest one be thought of as infra-dig.

  10. emsnews

    Yes, the rich and connected have to keep ahead of the herd of middle class who try to catch up. Worse, the servants who work for the upper class have to talk to them and around them and above all, raise their brats! So, they pick up the lingo.

    Indeed, this is how English was born: the Normans had to have nurses and staff who were not French Vikings, themselves. They had to talk to the children and the princes and princesses all picked up the confused lingo of the staff who were not Norman and thus, the blending of Norman French and Anglo Saxon/Norse English fused together in time for Shakespeare to pen his plays.

  11. The use of the ‘me’ pronoun in clauses where the nominative ‘I’ should be used does annoy me.
    But it is not as annoying as the widespread use of adjectives in place of adverbs in sentences. My favourites are things like ‘He plays good’ instead of ‘He plays well’ and others like ‘It states explicit’ instead of ‘It states explicitly’.
    Whats really ironic is that there are so many pendants who will take any opportunity to berate you for not keeping to one of the more obscure rules of grammer but who nothing about the actual basics of grammer. ie When to use lie versus lay etc. To me that is a really scary.

  12. PRINCE PHILLIP and I ,,,,,,, haha , i do speak correctly i’ll have you know madame.

  13. Alex Yam

    LOL I hope it’s not my bad grammar that inspired this. I knew I should have pasted my comments in MS Word and do a spell/grammar check first.

  14. Urban Roman

    Language is interesting stuff. Occasionally in discussions of nuclear power, I see advocates writing that their new (or old but disused) design will produce nuclear waste that is “only dangerous for 500 years”.

    My response to this assertion is “what language were your ancestors speaking 500 years ago?”, with the point being that humans cannot pay attention to anything for 500 years, let alone keep it stored safely away. That and the fact that the mean time-between-catastrophic-failures for a nuke plant is somewhere less than 100 years means that we should, but probably won’t, shut the entire industry down right now, ASAP.

    Sorry for changing the topic.

  15. emsnews

    I cringe when people mix up ‘fewer’ and ‘less’. The rule is ridiculously simple: when talking about volume, it is ‘less’ but when talking about many things, it is ‘fewer’. So, there is less milk in my cup but there are also fewer cups in the cupboard.

  16. tfoth

    Interestingly, the slave underclass created the most harmonically sophisticated music in the Western tradition. And it influenced so-called high art as well.

    For example, I had a music theory professor who was a Yale educated elitist and thought that jazz was vulgar. His lack of knowledge caused him to be confused by the second chord in Nessun Dorma. He thought that because two lowest voices framed a perfect fifth on E-flat that the root must be E-flat. Any jazz musician would immediately understand that the correct analysis is a simple dominant function with the upper partials sounding in the lower voices.

    ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

    ELAINE: It should strike you very hard that ‘slave’ culture was VERY rich and the ONLY possession held by slaves (they owned nothing else, after all) and VERY African which has a rich culture…and it became ‘pop’ culture and has degraded into ‘rap’ which is a debased form of African sing-song story telling. It has been devolving downwards for quite a few years.

  17. Rose

    As you enjoy long German sentences, here’s a link to Heiner Muller’s Description of a Picture/Explosion of a Memory (go to page six). You are probably familiar with Muller, but he’s not that well known in the States and some of your readers might not know his work; he’s worth reading!

    Click to access MuellerProse.PDF

  18. There’s a simple reason why neither Plato or Aristotle would recognize modern Greek today Elaine. Language, like culture, is dynamic and evolves over time.

  19. emsnews

    True, it is very dynamic. The rigorous, intellectual, precise Greek collapsed as it became useless for discussing things when the rich civic life of ancient Greece turned into slavery for the intellectuals.

  20. Shawntoh

    Speaking of language, looks like we sure need to watch our language–or in this case, watching out when watching TV, check this out…

    TV profanity, teen aggression linked
    http://www.presstv.com/detail/205691.html

  21. Amy

    I like that you’re addressing the pervasive problem with “me and my” and similar grammatical errors. As an added comment, I hear actors all the time saying things like, “Me and my dad went . . .,” or “Me and my friends. . . .” I realized that there are all of these “educated” writers who are writing lines for these actors to say; even the writers are getting it wrong.

    Another quick comment: “anyways” is not standard English (“Anyways, in today’s news there is a warning about toddler TV:”

    Thanks.

  22. emsnews

    I know that, this is being ‘conversational’ and sometimes I do this as a gentle joke.

  23. Alex

    Whilst I share your dislike of poor grammar and this issue in particular, you write like an elitist arsehole. I’m sorry to be so blunt but your constant derision of the “lower” social classes throughout this article combined with your dismissal of Janis Joplin’s music due to it’s “underclas” status makes you come accross as bigoted, ignorant and unpleasant. I can’t help but feel that this is less about grammar and more about deriding those that you perceive as below you in class and education. This is a real shame as this is a very important issue and you appear to have some valid points on the subject but any value to your argument is occluded by the arrogant judgement and dismissal that pours from your words.

  24. emsnews

    I’m sorry you can’t read well, I loved Janis. But I also was pointing out the problem with grammar.

    Yes, being educated is elitist which is why my ancestors worked hard to spread PUBLIC SCHOOLS in the US that are paid by taxpayers, not parents only.

    And in these schools, they used to hammer grammar into our little heads relentlessly and this has collapsed and this means we will revert back to barbarism.

    And Alex, anyone using the word ‘occluded’ is an ELITIST! HAHAHA.

  25. Alex

    So, your response is to claim I can’t read (how does that even make sense in this context?and to then attack my use of language? You’ve written this overly bloated, unnecessarily judgemental article about the incorrect use of language and then criticise my correct usage? You really are quite stupid aren’t you?

  26. Alex

    Also, being educated is not elitist, looking down on people because of their perceived social class is elitist.

  27. emsnews

    Alex, take a deep breath.

    When you read, you must think. Examples abound: your use of language is very elitist. So is mine. You objected to me talking about educating people so they can write like you and I.

    Instead of approving of this, you use the highest levels of elitist language to argue that we should have no grammatical standards, no elitist educated discussions which I find to be enormously funny.

  28. Alex

    Wow I think it’s you who needs to learn to read properly. That is in no way what I was saying. I agree with a lot of your points, as I stated in my first post, my objection lies with your condemning attitude that goes along with your points. You write like a petulant, spoiled child who thinks themselves above all others and as I said, I think that’s a shame because to me, it undermines the otherwise valid core of your article.

  29. emsnews

    Mirrors are marvelous.

  30. Alex

    Once again you ignore my points in favour of being flippant. Ah well, thankfully your attitude will almost certainly ensure that you are never taken seriously and never make a difference in the world despite your attempts at journalism. Though I suspect you write more for your own ego than for any genuine concern over the subject matter so that probably suits you fine. Good luck to you, you’ll most likely need it.

  31. The absence of grammar in central Alberta has declined so severely that even simple tense rules are broken. I am, by no means, an expert but everyone should be horrified by the following which is spoken frequently where I live:
    “My family come over yesterday. There’s so many people in my house, I need to ask some of them guys to leave”
    I consider this to be an audio abomination, yet I am considered rude if I mention it.

  32. emsnews

    Then there is the confusion over ‘less’ and ‘fewer’. ‘Fewer’ is for items, people, objects and ‘less’ is for volume, temperature, time. Easy to remember; there was less time for fewer people.

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