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Misuse of English In the Media

A limited or misunderstood vocabulary in a child or an adult who hasn’t much of an education is understandable.

The evidence of a crippled vocabulary in English-speakers who make their living as television announcers and journalists is appalling.

Heard on the evening news:

[after a house fire] firemen will babysit the scene.

I think that the firemen intended to “monitor” the scene in order to prevent a renewed outbreak of fire.

employees are in store for a pay raise

No. The pay raise is in store for the employees. The employees may be “in line” for a pay raise.

[a soldier went] to rescue his comrade soldiers

He went to rescue his comrades. In the context of a war story, “comrades” means “fellow soldiers.”

Seen in the newspaper:

Nelson is accused of shooting Stephens following a party at which most of the attendants were drunk.

People who attend parties are called guests. As this was not a party being conducted in an institution, there probably weren’t any attendants on duty, drunk or otherwise.

[the doctor] whose prescribing practices and incidences of patient overdoses led the state Medical Board to suspend his prescription-writing privileges on more than one occasion.

Apart from the bad phrasing, the word incidents, not “incidences” is called for in this context.

In addition to feeble vocabularies, many Americans have a terrible time with idioms involving prepositions. Both of these were heard on the local evening news:

[a missing woman thought to have] left the country on her own free will

The idiom is “of her own free will.”

They will have no more statements in the time being.

The idiom is “for the time being.”

A watered-down, pidgen type of English is perhaps convenient and desirable for non-native speakers in a multi-lingual setting, but when native speakers who are speaking and writing for other native English speakers use the language like foreigners, there is cause for alarm.

The only people who can stem this decline of English are parents. Teachers can help, but parents influence the way their children learn to speak before they ever go to school.  As children progress through school, they will develop fluency in reading and writing by being required to read a specified canon of well-written books in English.

Only parents and teachers are in a position to correct the spoken English of their charges on a consistent daily basis. Without the timely intervention of these caretakers, American English is going to devolve into a kind of Esperanto or Orwellian Newspeak.

Related articles:
Don’t Blame the Americans for this One!
It’s Not “The Ox-Bow Incidence”

2 comments to Misuse of English In the Media

  • Lawrence,
    Good point about the parents’ role. In the most recent tweaking, I reworded the conclusion.
    Thanks for your comment.

  • You say it is only parents and teachers “who can stem this decline of English.”

    The parents fail the child before the teacher gets a chance. This failure on the part of the parents stems from a lack of love. Lack of love, not of themselves, but of the children whom God has given into their charge.

    The children know perfectly well that loving parents will discipline an errant child. Knowing this, they rebel as a way of calling the parents to account and of gaining the attention they sorely need and know is to be expected of loving parents.

    Of course, after a while the parents and their friends start to wonder what could possibly be wrong. These children have everything they could hope for, according to the circumstances of their parents, and yet they are like monsters compared to other children whose parents are stricter.

    The first sentence above would be better if it read, first the parents, then the teachers are responsible for stemming the decline of spoken English in America. The parents must give the teachers disciplined and respectful children to teach. Then it should be the responsibility of the teachers to continue the job at school while the parents continue at home.

    Teachers must be allowed to lovingly administer corporal punishment to children as needed from time to time. Corporal punishment is over and done with in a moment and leaves no scar such as does the long-lasting, alternative forms of punishment allowed teachers today.

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