Bucks County Herald

Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

Burning letters, toasted talk

While we’ve talked about social media on both sides of the fence, it can’t be argued that it is a great way to keep up with friends, whether those in close proximity or those we rarely see.

For most of us, that is reason enough to log on. Of course, the technology I.V. is never pretty and we must control it, but it’s awesome being part of things like a cousin’s visit to Italy in real time.

Today, celebrities, politicians, businesses, and private organizations are using it for publicity and, sadly, propaganda. There’s also lots of sharing beautiful photos and videos, encouragement and information, the expressing of joy, and even assertive responses to angry posts. It all goes on, all the time, and it’s all in the written language.

Recently, we talked about each of us possessing specific gifts. Everyone has several, and we are all different in what we excel at … thank goodness. For me, language is a unique pleasure, and the sheer fascination of stringing words together borders on the mystic. Inspired by posts from so many people, I offered a generic word page on social media, for a while. Called “Burning Letters,” it simply clarified mini-mysteries about the language and cleared up some small speech mistakes that seem so common, especially those seen on social media every day. It was fun.

At Chatterbox, we’ve talked before about some of the common mistakes and misuses of daily expressions, common words, and writing issues which stump some of us. Of course, pronunciation is highly localized and, when we’re in friendly conversation, grammar isn’t as important as it is when we hit the keyboard.

If we watch or channel surf the television, we will see that many people, some highly educated, will use curbside lingo when proper English is required. Even in positions where talking is the job and one should use proper language, even if casually, we find slang dominates.

One night, on a late night show, a soft spoken, favorite actress of mine was being interviewed, so I watched. The host used the word, “snuck.” She humorously mentioned that “snuck” wasn’t a real word. She was correct. Some dictionaries list it only because it has become part of the American vernacular, and nearly all will note that it is slang.

Her ungracious host couldn’t let it go; his ego was dented. After the commercial, he presented a dictionary that listed it as a word but which failed to denote it as slang. She probably knew better but, graciously, took it on the chin and let it go. Many wouldn’t have (who, me?). We, humorously, would have asked him to conjugate the verb “sneak.” He couldn’t have sneaked “snuck” in anywhere …
“sneak, snak, have snuck?”

Proper English shouldn’t be debatable. Our language shouldn’t be eclipsed by slang, and slang and colloquialisms shouldn’t be considered anything but such. Yet, incorrect grammar is now on billboards, television commercials, and in print ads, especially in those offering things “for free.”

Television sales people often use incorrect grammar as catchphrases to sound like they’ve got the inside track on something, when, really, they’re completely off-track. They discuss “the fabrication of a pant” as though it has to do with the cloth used to make a pair of pants. Fabrication is a process, not cloth, and pants come in inseparable sets of legs. Pant is what a dog does when he’s hot.

Certainly, no one wants to sound snobbish and, as we recently discussed, we all have a different strong suit, but our native tongue isn’t a sport or hobby. Colloquialisms have a place and it is effective, even in writing, to use a little slang now and then; it drives home an interesting point, and a familiar remark can add a light, comical, friendly twist, but the correct use of one’s own language is the rule.

Most of us are finicky about something. Maybe car buffs get a rash when we call an SUV a truck. Who knows? Some of us are more finicky about language than others. Still, language and our ability to communicate succinctly with it are common to all of us. So, some people get irritated when “should of” becomes acceptable for “should have,” or “their, they’re, and there” become interchangeable, and let’s not talk about orientated and oriented.

Nobody’s infallible. Still, whether it’s a pet peeve or not, we only have wiggle room in good grammar in a second language.

A’right … I gotta split.

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