Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca

 

Published on Friday, July 15, 2022

Pronouns display our language proficiency

Thursday July 14, 2022

 

The other day, I heard a CBC announcer intone, “between you and me.”

            I was shocked. He got it right!

            Pronouns, it seems, have become the litmus test of language competency.

            Back when Joan I and I were buying our first house, the real estate representative told me, oozing sincerity, “I would like for you and I to be friends.”

            I considered any such friendship unlikely. Him and I were not grammatically compatible.

            Back in high school, English teacher Jean Skelton made our entire class chant, over and over, “between you and me… between you and me… between you and me…”

            Someone must have blurted, “between you and I.”

            Which was wrong, of course. Technically, “between” is a preposition which requires the objective case following it. But that’s probably the kind of explanation that turned you off grammar in the first place.

 

Subjects and objects

            So let’s try the real estate agent’s “for you and I.” It’s actually a shortened form of “for you and for me.” Therefore, “you and me.” Not ”I”.

            You wouldn’t say “for you, and for I,” would you?

            Well, maybe you would, as Twitter and TicTok blur the edges of acceptability.

            Okay, then let’s try it with subjects, instead of objects. You would normally say, “I went to the store.” And you would also say, “She went to the store.” So why, when people put those two together, do they say, “Her and me went to the store”?

            Me don’t understand.

            Miss Skelton believed that speaking correct would impress the right people. So she thought we should of been able to recognize subjective and objective cases of pronouns. Misplaced modifiers. Subject-verb agreements. And even subjunctive pluperfect passives.

            It depends on who you hope to impress, I guess.

            Today, nobody seems to care less. Except for a few of we old-timers.

 

Setting the standard

            Once upon a time, the CBC had a staff person who monitored announcers’ speech patterns. His memos drew attention to common errors and issued instructions for proper pronunciation and sentence structure.

            Once upon a time, the CBC shaped Canadian speech patterns. Now it just reflects them.

            People don’t seem to care about precise, accurate, speech anymore. Example -- our family had went out for dinner. My grandson bragged about his soccer game: “I played good.”

            His mother corrected him: “I played well.”

            Grandson: “No you didn’t. You weren’t on the field at all.”

            Mom: “I’m correcting you. You should have said, ‘I played WELL.”

            Grandson shrugs.

            In my own defence, I’m not a snob. I do recognize that language changes. Too often, rules become someone’s attempt to freeze language to fit a particular time and style. Their time. Their style.

            Alot of people act like grammar police. They correct their friends. They talk back at the TV. If their looking for mistakes, there’s hundreds every day.

            As a professional language user, lots of people expect me to be one of those grammar police. I used to be. I corrected my family’s when they mis-spoke. Not no more. Now they correct other people.

            Ah, life is sweet!

            By the way, if nothing in the column above sets your teeth on edge, don’t never take an English proficiency test. (P.S. If you want a corrected answer sheet, write me at rewrite@shaw.ca)

*****************************************

Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca

*****************************************

 

Corrected version. 

Correct words in capital letters; quoted words and examples left as is, with errors shown in red. Note to some – there was only one unintentional mistake in this column. You won’t find it, because I corrected it.

 

The other day, I heard a CBC announcer intone, “between you and me.”

            I was shocked. He got it right!

            Pronouns, it seems, have become the litmus test of language competency.

            Back when Joan and I were buying our first house, the real estate representative told me, oozing sincerity, “I would like for you and I to be friends.”

            I considered any such friendship unlikely. HE Him and I were not grammatically compatible.

            Back in high school, English teacher Jean Skelton made our entire class chant, over and over, “between you and me… between you and me… between you and me…”

            Someone must have blurted, “between you and I.”

            Which was wrong, of course. Technically, “between” is a preposition which requires the objective case following it. But that’s probably the kind of explanation that turned you off grammar in the first place.

 

Subjects and objects

            So let’s try the real estate agent’s “for you and I.” It’s actually a shortened form of “for you and for me.” Therefore, “you and me.” Not ”I”.

            You wouldn’t say “for you, and for I,” would you?

            Well, maybe you would, as Twitter and TicTok blur the edges of acceptability.

            Okay, then let’s try it with subjects, instead of objects. You would normally say, “I went to the store.” And you would also say, “She went to the store.” So why, when people put those two together, do they say, “SHE and I Her and mewent to the store”?

            I Me don’t understand.

            Miss Skelton believed that speaking CORRECTLY correct would impress the right people. So she thought we should HAVE of been able to recognize subjective and objective cases of pronouns. Misplaced modifiers. Subject-verb agreements. And even subjunctive pluperfect passives.

            It depends on who you hope to impress, I guess.

            Today, nobody seems to care less. Except for a few of US we old-timers.

 

Setting the standard

            Once upon a time, the CBC had a staff person who monitored announcers’ speech patterns. His memos drew attention to common errors and issued instructions for proper pronunciation and sentence structure.

            Once upon a time, the CBC shaped Canadian speech patterns. Now it just reflects them.

            People don’t seem to care about precise, accurate, speech anymore. Example -- our family had GONE went out for dinner. My grandson bragged about his soccer game: “I played good.

            His mother corrected him: “I played well.”

            Grandson: “No you didn’t. You weren’t on the field at all.”

            Mom: “I’m correcting you. You should have said, ‘I played WELL.”

            Grandson shrugs.

            In my own defence, I’m not a snob. I do recognize that language changes. Too often, rules become someone’s attempt to freeze language to fit a particular time and style. Their time. Their style.

            A LOT Alot of people act like grammar police. They correct their friends. They talk back at the TV. If THEY’RE their looking for mistakes, THERE ARE there’s hundreds every day.

            As a professional language user, I’M EXPECTED lots of people expect me (misplaced modifier) to be one of those grammar police. I used to be. I corrected my FAMILY family’s when they MADE ERRORS mis-spoke. Not ANY no more. Now they correct other people.

            Ah, life is sweet!

            By the way, if nothing in the column above sets your teeth on edge, don’t EVER never take an English proficiency test.

 

YOUR TURN

 

There wasn’t much mail this time around – not surprising, considering that a computer glitch in the Mailman program that I use to send these out to the mailing list didn’t send them. And when a helpful technician found the problem, everything that had been held back went out at once.

            Isabel Gibson commented, “The original and this re-send arrived together. I wonder where the first one was in the meantime . . .”

            Limbo, maybe?

 

As a retired engineer, Sandy Wightman likes to be precise. So he wrote, “FYI a nautical mile is indeed 6080 ft but it is one minute of latitude, not one degree. One degree is 60 minutes or 60 nautical miles. Perhaps we should stick with the furry nut-focussed tree climber!”

 

David Martyn mentioned an old measurement I hadn’t included: “In my first employment for the church I had to know how long a fathom was.”

            David’s first job was on board the United Church of Canada’s coastal mission boat, the Thomas Crosby V. It was the fifth of these boats serving isolated lighthouses and communities along the B.C. coast. Crosby (1840-1914) was a pioneer missionary.

 

Heather Sandilands “could hear Bill Cosby's voice, as Noah, asking ‘What’s an ark?’ And then ‘What's a cubit?’ To which The Voice says, ‘A cubit. A cubit...I used to know what a cubit was....’

            “As for meaningless words, I completely agree, Jim. I feel the same when we use words like ‘grace’, ‘redemption’ and ‘G*d’. They are all good, but only as shorthand, or as a signpost. Seems we're (finally) becoming aware that religion has taught the signs but not what the signs are pointing to. Or why it matters.”

 

Isabel Gibson added a second letter, about those words: “Maybe it's good to go back and forth - interrogating the text one day (What is that strange word? What did this mean to the writer/editor/community?) and sinking into the sounds the next day.

            “Rituals, including ritualistic words, have power through repetition and familiarity. Too-frequent updates rob us of that.”

 

Finally, Dawne Taylor took the issue of meaningless words into the fuller context of worship: “You asked some good questions in this column. I especially like your reference to sermons as perhaps ‘muzak for the soul.’ I spent many years as the ‘sage on the stage’ in congregational ministry, and like most clergy I spent up to 15 hours per week writing liturgy, children's story, researching and preparing sermons, selecting hymns, contacting congregational members who would be taking part, etc. plus the time on Sunday at the actual worship service.   Now that I've been retired for a number of years and spent time sitting in the pew, I realize how little all that time spent on worship preparation means to congregation members.  Some are quite content with muzak for the soul without being challenged or encouraged to grow in their faith.  Some are there primarily for music and to sing in the choir.  Some are there out of habit. And some to catch up with their friends in the social time after worship. Many do not want to move and evolve and be transformed -- beyond their childhood faith. 

            “More and more I am becoming convinced that the ‘sage on the stage’ is an old model -- at least for those denominations, congregations and clergy who would describe themselves as ‘progressive’. Churches and Christians need to be about spiritual formation and transformation so that we may grow into the ‘likeness of Christ.’  In my seminary time, topics such as spiritual formation were never even mentioned, let alone be a subject on the curriculum.  It was all about delivery: of sermons, worship services, pastoral care, outreach and community work, educational programs.  I think that may have changed somewhat since the 1980's but I'm not sure.

            “More and more I've come to the opinion that churches ought to dispense with the ‘sage on the stage’ version of Christianity, and move towards a more inclusive model with laity expected to engage in spiritual programs and formation. This can happen through many small group programs, projects, discussions etc., where the emphasis is on action + reflection + and then more action + reflection.  Same sort of thing on Sunday morning -- where small groups spend maybe 15-20 minutes in discussion on the scripture (with question prompts), laity lead prayers, hymns are sung (not solos to feature professional musicians), etc.  Until people are actually involved and required to spend some time reflecting on their faith and the action that flows from their faith, faith can remain stagnant and childish. ‘Put away childish things’ as the apostle Paul said.  That does not mean to do away with ordained clergy.  In fact appropriately educated clergy are even more essential in order to lead congregations and individuals to a deeper and fuller faith in a way that most sermons cannot do.”

 

*****************************************

 

Psalm paraphrase

 

My recent paraphrases seem to be following a pattern of some kind, translating the biblical context into a big business context. Anyway, here’s my take on Psalm 52. Funnily enough, it reminds me of someone recently in the news.

 

1          You boast about beating your competitors; 
you brag about evading taxes; 
you use other people's money for leveraged financing.

2          You think you're worth millions. 
But everything you do exposes your moral bankruptcy.

3          You'd rather lord it over your neighbors than love them; 
you'd rather knife your employees than nurture them.

4          You're a bundle of malevolent reflexes.

5          Someday, you will get what you deserve. 
Your spouse will leave you, your children will despise you, your colleagues will avoid you. 
Your empires will come crashing down around your shattered ego.

6          Even those you exploited will laugh at you.

7          They'll say, "How the mighty are fallen!" 
They'll laugh, "The bigger you are, the harder you fall!"

 

8          I'm not powerful or successful. 
I'm a child compared to you. 
But I can still laugh in the rain and sing in the sunshine. 
I ride my roller coasters in the park, not in the stock market. 
I'd rather hold a hand than hold a meeting.

9          What I do, I do for God. 
If any credit is due, I give it to God. 
And God frees me to enjoy the goodness of living.

 

You can find paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary in my book Everyday Psalmsavailable from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.

 

*******************************************

 

TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

                  To subscribe or unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to jimt@quixotic.ca. Or you can subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message or subject line) to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at softedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

                  I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                  And for those of you who like poetry, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca (If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)

 

********************************************

 

PROMOTION STUFF

 

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of some of the web links.

                  Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!

                  I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.

                  Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)

 

ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE

                  I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)

 

 


Comments (0)Number of views (43)

Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Language, pronouns

Print

Tags

"gate of the year" #MeToo .C. Taylor 150th birthday 1950s 1954 1972 1984 215 3G 70 years 9/11 A A God That Could Be Real abduction aboriginal abortion Abrams abuse achievement Adam addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix Advent advertising affirmative action Afghanistan aging agnostics Ahriman Ahura Mazda airlines airport killings Alabama albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations allies Almighty Almighty God alone ALS alt-right altruism Amanda Gorman Amanda Todd Amazon American empire Amerika Amherst amnesia analysis Andes Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anger animals anniversaries Anniversary Anthropocene antidote Ants aphrodisiac apologetics Apologies apology apoptosis App Store Archives Ardern Aristotle armistice Armstrong army Army and Navy stores Art artifacts artists ashes Asian assisted death astronomy atheists atonement atropine Attawapiscat attitudes attraction audits Aunt Jemima Australia authorities authorities. Bible autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry B.C. Legislature B-2 baby Bach bad news baggage Bagnell Bahai Baldi Bali Banda banning books Baptism Barabbas Barbados barbed wire barbers barriers Bashar al Assad Batman baton BC BC Conference Beans bears beauty Beaver Beethoven beginnings behaviour bel-2 belief systems beliefs bells belonging benefits Bernardo Berners-Lee berries Bible biblical sex bicycle Biden Bill C-6 billboards billionaire BioScience Bird songs birds birth birthday birthdays Bitcoin Black history Blackmore blessings Blockade blockades blood blood donations blood donors Bloomberg Blue Christmas boar boarding school body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women BOMBHEAD bombing bombings bombs books border patrol borrowing both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brain development brains Brazil breath breathe breathing Brexit broken Bruce McLeod bubbles Buber Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying burials bus driver bush pilots butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras campfire Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats cancer cannibalism Canute Capitol Capp caregivers Caribbean Caribbean Conference of Churches caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cash castes cats cave caveats CBC CD Cecil the lion. Zanda cell phones Celsius CentrePiece CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Chesapeake Bay Retriever Chesterton Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking childbirth children Chile Chile. Allende China chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christchurch Christiaanity Christian Christianity Christians Christina Rossetti Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas Eve Christmas gathering Christmas lights Christmas tree Christmas trees Christopher Plummer church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés Clearwater Clichés cliffhanger climate change climate crisis clocks close votes clouds Coastal GasLink coastal tribes coffee coincidence cold collaboration collapse collective work colonial colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty comfort comic strips commercials communication Communion community compassion competition complexity composers composting computer processes Computers conception conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues confession confessions confidence Confirmation confusion Congo Congress Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent conservative Conservative Party conspiracies conspiracy constitution construction contraception contrasts Conversations Conversion conversion therapy Convoy cooperation COP26 copyright coral Cornwallis corona virus coronavirus corporate defence corporations corruption Corrymeela Cosby Cougars counter-cultural Countercurrents couple courtesy courts Covenant Coventry Cathedral COVID-19 Coyotes CPP CPR CRA Craig crashes Crawford Bay creation creche credit credit cards creeds cremation crescent Creston crime criminal crossbills cross-country skiing Crows crucifixion Cruelty crypto-currencies Cuba Missile Crisis Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cutbacks cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Damien Damocles Dan Rather dancing Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Scott David Suzuki de Bono dead zone deaf deafness death death survival deaths debt decision decisions decorations deficit Definitions Delhi Dementia democracy Democratic denial Denny's departure Depression Derek Chauvin Descartes Desiderata despair determinism Devin Kelley dew dawn grass Diana Butler-Bass dinosaurs discontinuities discussion Dishwashing dissent distancing diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Don Cherry Donald Trump donkey Donna Sinclair donor doorways Doug Ford Doug Martindale Dr. Keith Roach Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs ducks duets Duvalier dying Dylan Thomas earth Earth Day earthquake Earworms Easter Eat Pray Love Ebola echo chambers e-cigarettes eclipse economics Eden editing editing by committee Edwards-Sawatzky ego Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or election Elizabeth Gilbert Ellithorpe email embassy emergency emergent emotions Empire encryption Englehart English Entropy
Copyright 2022 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada