Your Pain Is Our Pleasure
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October 4, 2010
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@ greed asked:
"Is it? Really? I would have expected your job to be teaching English. Not upholding it, Not defending it. But teaching it, with reverence to meaning and love of nuance.
Who do you teach? If it’s children, I pity them."
1) Five out of six of your sentences here are fragments.2) It is not correct to capitalize the letter "n" in "not" after a comma.3) It is unnecessary to use a comma before a prepositional phrase such as "with reverence".4) I would argue that, idiomatically, one has "reverence for" not "reverence to" meaning.5) We use "whom" to match an indirect object. "To whom do you teach English?" would be preferred, but "Who do you teach" is a less formal though acceptable substitute. 6) For someone who claims to love the nuances of the English language, you seem to lack nuance in your understanding of the words "uphold" and "defend." In context, they combine to mean that I want the English language to maintain its beauty, through teaching more people more correct ways to express themselves. Additionally, I chose "uphold" and "defend" because they paraphrase T.S. Eliot's essays about this subject, though I don't imagine they rang a bell for you.7) To answer your question, I have taught developmental English at urban community colleges, undergraduates at Research One universities, and Masters' students at Research One universities. I hold a Ph.D. in English, and am a published scholar. 8) You may pity my students, but they don't pity themselves. They leave my classroom having found more successful ways to express themselves without distracting their readers with grammar errors like your fragments above, and without falling into logical fallacies like the Ad Hominem attack you attempted to launch. 9) I agree with you; we who teach English should teach it with reverence and love.
Yes, my love I know there are many uses of on. My complaint is not that "on accident" is wrong, but that it represents a laziness spreading like a malignancy. My students wait ON line, they argue ON a topic, they wait ON a bus that's late, they are ON restriction, they do things ON accident, they are thinking ON an idea, they are talking ON a topic. In, over, for, under, by, and about have disappeared. And I liked them. I am not suggesting that change is wrong, or that "on accident" must be banned from speech. I am suggesting that we push for the kind of informed variety that has long made idiomatic English so delightful. Change is good... I prefer purposeful change for the better, not change by atrophy and sloth.
Sigh... 1) You missed my point. I said that the PRACTICE of prepositional accuracy is important. If we allow "on accident, " shall we also allow the common mistake "I went over his house," which indicates that the speaker went OVER the house rather than TO it? Shall we then allow the error, "You may not be BEYOND 500 feet of my client" rather than "You may not be WITHIN 500 feet of my client"? How far are we willing to slide with our who-gives-a-crap-about-prepositions attitude? Prepositions are small but mighty. They count. 2) I'm staying late at work trying to create an English test for my developmental students. Let's argue about this at home, shall we dear?
Yes, my love, it does bother me to hear you say you did something "on accident." It is my job as an English teacher to 1)uphold correct grammar and 2) defend the dignity and tradition of the language. Yes, language changes. However, I am bothered by those who use the bandwagon logical fallacy to defend an error. Simply noting that more and more people make this error does not make it correct. It means that more and more people make the error. People are right to note that if the trend continues, there will be too few of us who know the rule to protest effectively. The same is true for all sorts of linguistic back-formations. However, I argue that it is our responsibility to guard against allowing our language to change without our informed consent. Just as inbreeding will create undesired results, ungoverned changes in our common language will also breed negative results. Asking for adherence to a common grammar assures clarity in communication. Our laws, medical practices, infrastructures... All depend on our abilities to communicate with precision and accuracy. Prepositional correctness as a PRACTICE is crucial. Accepting errors that become increasingly common seems, therefore unwise and worth our best corrective efforts.
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