Monday May 4 | Language in an Electronic Age

May 1, 2009 at 10:30 am | Posted in Coming Up | 4 Comments

Strunk and White’s hugely popular grammar book The Elements of Style turns 50 this year. Since then, the English language has been influenced by the advent of rock and roll, rap, mass communication and now social media. We’ll look at some of the most recent changes in the way we communicate with each other.
Cynthia Lewis – Professor of English, Davidson College
Pam Kelley – Staff Reporter, Charlotte Observer
Ben Zimmer – Executive Director, Visual Thesaurus

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    Has anyone noticed the curious phenomena that invaded the English language in 2006?

    It seems the entire English speaking world is adding “DO”, “DOES”, and “DID” needlessly and is not even aware of it! Imagine if famous lines were written today:

    “When the saints DO go marching in.”

    “The rain in Spain DOES fall mainly in the plain.”

    “Mary DID have a little lamb.”

    “The President said” is now “The President DID say”. “If Julius Peppers stays with the Panthers” is now “If Julius Peppers DOES stay with the Panthers”. “If the car makers file bankruptcy” is now “If the car makers DO file bankruptcy”. (The list is endless!)

    Aren’t italics and voice inflection the proper devices used for emphasis?

    Will wedding vows soon include: “I DO do.”?

    Please have your guests address this issue 5-4-09 morning. Thank you for your consideration.


    Robert A. Jacobson

  2. Your show hits on a critical issue in education. I have been teaching college students for almost fifteen years. In that time, the quality of students’ written work has continued to decline. The errors made are not complicated (as in people vs. persons), bur rather simple ones, such as mixing there, their and they’re, or insisting on its’ as a possessive word. The real problem is that I work with preservice teachers, many whose communication skills are deficient when they come to me. Though I do not teach english courses to these students, I try to help them learn proper and spelling usage. This is often a futile task, which means that these teachers will then go to work in their classrooms and continue the sad cycle. I wish I had a solution, but I am flummoxed.

  3. If my grammar and mechanics have become rusty, what should I do short of enrolling in an English Composition class?


  4. Good closing from Strunk and White:

    Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he should avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every sentence tell.

    Also applies to Talk shows

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