Letters to the Editor

Letter: Correct grammatical English

When I went to school as a boy 66 years ago or so (I know, I’m old, so anything I would have to say can be ignored), I went to grammar school, not just today’s grade school. Correct usage was further taught in both high school and college. The result is that I learned English grammar. I learned correct English, not just common street language.

Many Latin words got adopted directly into English, and the rules still apply. For example, “data” is a plural word. “Datum” is the singular. Datum is, and data are. I rarely hear correct use and applaud when I do.

People today routinely misuse the language, partly through laziness and partly because they never learned the right way. That is at least partly because their teachers didn’t know — because they were lazy and/or didn’t learn correct grammar from their teachers. The problem is that old, if not older, and I don’t see corrective change coming any time soon because teachers and journalists are equally lazy or uninformed. We speak English as we wish without a thought given to actual communication. When will we learn that correct English is the key to communicating — and that communication is the only way for more than one person to get anything done?

Another pet peeve is how often “you know” appears repeatedly in a presentation. No, if I already know, why must you tell me again? If what you are saying actually is new to me, then I don’t yet know. In either case, “you know” is wrong and not needed. Like, I mean, you know? Also, in this last example, there is no need for the word “like” in what appears to be some introduction or modifier. Properly, it is neither, but just another unneeded space filler. In another example, the question is where it is, not where it is at. “At” has no place here. Please try to use correct English, not try and use correct English.

I regularly see incorrect grammar in the Daily News and hear it on the televised news — even Channel 2 News. Reporters are, presumably, exemplars of good grammar and fail us when they are not. Part of the problem is that people are not thinking about what they say or how best to say it. Thus, they end up using “um” and “ah” to fill the voids while they think of what comes next because they cannot allow themselves to appear as not knowing what they want to say next. Think about what you say; listen to yourself and correct as needed. I could go on, but you get the point, I hope.

Yes, English is a living language, which means there is always change, but the changes should occur within the rules of the language. New words added to the language do not change the rules of English, even as it otherwise grows.

When will the Anchorage School District begin teaching English, not just street language, and have the students use correct English? How long will it take that to reach the Anchorage Daily News and Channel 2 News? The answers, I’m afraid, are never and never. I hope I’m wrong.


— Joseph Koss


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