Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

On Grammatical Correctness

Over on Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director, there's an interesting letter from a 'Russian rite emigrant. Of course, what I noticed was the comments about the "grammatically correct" phrase, 'up with which I will not put'.

Well, there's grammar and then there's grammar. Frankly, there are many grammar rules taught in English class which are far from being correct English grammar. But then, "American Standard English" is not English as she is really spoken; it's English as it's useful to pretend we speak and write. It is the job of an English teacher to preserve structures which, on the whole, are no longer in use and no longer easily intelligible. In many cases, we never used them. Many grammar rules are derived from Latin usage and were imposed on English, and grammar students, in an attempt to "improve" style.

For example, English has always been able to end sentences with prepositions, from Old English on. It's one of English's more useful and beautiful quirks. And what's really wrong with "ain't" as an abbreviation for "am not"? It's not any uglier or younger than "won't" or "don't".

But in American Standard English, it is correct to observe and teach nonsensical rules. It is important to preserve a formal dialect that all English speakers and readers can understand. If that means kids have to learn the now-reversed meanings of "will" vs. "shall", or non-phonetic spellings -- well, so be it. That is the sort of thing up with which members of a civilization must put.

Just don't call it "correct". It's wrong as heck. The real rules of speaking English are being abused by such a malformation of the tongue. But it's "standard", we have to know it, and sometimes formality makes us use it. That's good enough.

Dr. Language on ending a sentence with a preposition, the second person plural, 'This is she', and ain't.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Chicago TV Log

The only channel in the US showing Airwolf reruns is in Chicago. Did my hotel have this station? No.... But I did get to see Jan-Michael Vincent in Defiance. (It was on Showtime on Friday morning for some reason.) This was a great little 1980 movie about a New York neighborhood living in fear of a gang. JMV, as merchant sailor Tommy Gamble, is the reluctant hero who ends up leading the neighborhood to take back its own. Well written, well acted, well made in all ways. Even the villain, Angel, was a figure painted in shades of gray. At one point he jokes nastily to another character that he'd been off applying for a stockbroker's job. The character, an older man, says sadly that Angel could have done that. For a moment, Angel is ashamed...and for the rest of the movie, you can't just view him as a stock thug.

Of course I didn't watch the Super Bowl. Good call about not watching the halftime show. But I found myself flipping and flipping instead of napping like I should've. Then, this morning I woke up way too early. I caught a good Speed Racer episode on the Speed Channel, and then found myself watching a rerun of a "classic" race in Sweden, which took place in the winter and featured little compact cars slipping and sliding around on snow-covered dirt roads. Heh. Finally, a race which reflects normal driving skills.

But I am beginning to feel as if the St. Blog Collective is taking over my mind. I'm actually starting to be able to watch EWTN programs (ones that aren't in Spanish, even!) without thinking they're incredibly weird and cheesy. I really enjoyed watching the Catechism program on Sunday night. Watching a rerun of Father Groeschel's show on hope was poignant, considering his ongoing recovery from his injuries. I'm looking forward to seeing Scott Hahn, too.... AHHHHHHHH!

It occurs to me, though, that maybe one reason Joy has always been able to get into EWTN more than me is that there are quite a few former Evangelicals in the EWTN community, and thus there's a small strand of familiarity in the culture. Meanwhile-- and not that this is necessarily a bad thing; it just is -- there's not much of the Cincinnati Archdiocese/St. Anthony's Messenger style in EWTN. So of course it struck me as being over the top and cheesy, when in fact the people on these shows really act that way. Now that I've had a chance to get accustomed to a more "traditional" style as well as the Evangelical one, I can get past the medium to understand the message.

Still, I bet Amy Welborn, being from Indiana, would be a little bit more homey to me. But what about Steubenville, you ask? Well, really, the eastern border of Ohio is about as different from the southwest where I live as night is from day. Totally different culture, thanks to the settlement pattern. Hoosiers are different, but not that different.

But let's face it; I've gotten used to being different. If I ever found myself smack dab in the middle of a peer group that conformed comfortably to me, it'd probably make me so uneasy I'd get hives. So I don't really expect EWTN to be any exception.