Wasting Pronouns, Talking in Questions & The Word, “Like”
By Karen Nelson, M.A.
I admit that I was trained by my mother to be a stickler around grammar and communications. And, as a result of that training, my sisters and I were very fond of driving our mother crazy by purposely mis-pronouncing names and words, by occasionally placing the em-pha-sis on the wrong syl-lab-le or on the wrong word: reading a street sign, we would yell out to mother as she was driving, “STOP! A Head!” Or “What’s that in the road. Mother?” Typically, mother would shudder and then laugh at our antics. I believe she was secretly proud of our understanding of grammar and the English language. Now, all these years later, I find myself acutely aware of two things: English is the craziest language in the world, and language can be a living, breathing mess of change. I suppose this is my karma…
All right people. There are three patterns of speech that are growing in popularity: one is the often unnecessary use of a pronoun within one sentence when the subject has already been identified or the indiscriminate use of pronouns between sentences. The second pattern is speaking in questions. And finally, the last one is like using “like” at the beginning of, like, every phrase.
Hasn’t anyone learned anything from Twitter??? One hundred and forty keystrokes (not characters as is frequently claimed since a blank space is NOT a character) means that people waste time and space by using a pronoun (he, she, they, it, etc) once one has already identified the subject in that sentence. For example, in talking about the arrest of an elected official, the reporter says the person’s name followed by “he did such and such” Or on the subject of increased cases of measles, the anchor says, “Officials in Orange County, they say there is an increase in reported cases of measles.” Of course, “they” said it. You already identified the subject as Orange County officials! Didn’t any of these people, reporters, take “bonehead” English in school? Doing this, this is ridiculous and unnecessary. I guess what irritates me most is the suspicion that such individuals, they do not trust that I am capable of following the thread of a their communication.
In contrast, communication is made more difficult when people use pronouns indiscriminately. You know what you’re talking about, but I’m not in your head. So, “John” talks about his son. He is so special. WHO is special, “John” or his son? Now, I might be able to tell who it is you’re talking about by waiting for further context. So, I don’t interrupt. It is only when my understanding seems hopelessly mired in indiscriminate pronouns that I will interrupt you. “John was talking about his son. He is so special. They couldn’t decide if he was a genius or just plain disturbed. I mean, they just can’t get around their pedagogical ideas! How rigid can you be?” Now I interrupt, and you have to re-explain your point. Who is special? Who is pedagogical? Who is a genius? Who is rigid? I might be rigid, but I haven’t really given any indication of this!
An especially insidious practice in speech is using a lilting tone at the end of a sentence. I have no problem with people asking questions. I do have a problem with people who talk in questions? A question begins with a who, what, where, when, how or why and ends with a question mark which is spoken with a lift in tone of the voice? I suspect people who do this often are very insecure people or very insecure about their opinions. It seems to have replaced the nearly ubiquitous “Ya know,” ya know?
Stand up, people! If you are wrong or mistaken in your opinion, accept responsibility and “stand corrected!”
Finally, the mis-use of the word “like” it is also a signal of insecurity? According to The Oxford Dictionary of English, the word like as used informally in speech is a “meaningless filler” or is used to “signify the speaker’s uncertainty about an expression.” The dictionary gives an example: “So she comes into the room and she’s like, ‘Where is everybody?’ ” It’s like you can’t be sure, like, what you’re talking about or, like, what the other is, like, understanding?
There used to be a saying when I was in high school, “Put your brain in gear before you open your mouth!” Let's face it, English is crazy enough when spoken without Fad-Talk! "Re" in front of a noun usually means a repeat, except in repeat! "I" before "E" except after "C" and in neighbor and weigh. The "gh" in neighbor and weigh are silent. "Gh" in tough and rough are pronounced like an F. The "f" in "if" is pronounced like an "f," but in "of" it sounds like a "v!" What the "F?" LOL?