Beauty of the English Language
I’m a Lover of the English Language. I Love it because of all of its quirks, idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities.
When I was in college The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, plus The Little, Brown Handbook were my best friends. Now the dictionary is my best friend. I’m constantly looking up the proper spelling and definition of words. Yes, when I write I’m constantly editing my work for spelling, punctuation and grammar. The only time I let certain things slip is when I want to create an effect within my poems. With poetry I can be flexible.
The grammar and punctuation lessons from my online writers group excite me. That’s because the English language is dynamic and mercurial. It’s a composite of Latin roots and American English has incorporated words from every ethnic group to settle these shores in addition to words from our Native American sisters and brothers. English has an ebb and flow like the Oceans and opens its arms to embrace and adopt new words that keep it a living language.
I receive thrills and chills when I read Shakespeare or the King James Version of the Bible. For me the KJV has a beauty, flow, cadence and rhythm that the NIV or the Amplified will never have. The scriptures just sound better they way there were written in 1611. Shakespeare. What can I say about him? For me he is the master. The dialogue and soliloquies from Hamlet just trip off my tongue. Out of all his plays Hamlet is my all time favorite.
My parents especially my father Edward Palmer always demanded that I speak proper English both inside and outside our home. Reading was heavily encouraged in my home and my parents regularly purchased books, children’s magazines and had me reading the New York Times at an early age. This was great when I was around my family, however growing up and even as an adult I was accused of “talking white” by my fellow African-Americans! I learned to ignore these gibes especially as I got older and saw the benefits of being articulate. My young cousins know that Cousin DeBorah will correct their speech and their homework if I hear or see them brutalizing the language. I cringe when I walk down Jamaica Avenue, Guy Brewer or Baisley boulevards and I hear young people misusing English. I’m not speaking of slang because every generation had that. Also every ethnic group has its own little axioms or gems of wisdom for getting their point across, I mean when I hear young people use “axe” for ask. Are they about to kill someone? Maybe.
I fully recognize usage of regional slave speech by Paul Laurence Dunbar and dialects such patois, the Creole of the Gullah/geechee people of South Carolina and Georgia. Dialects have their place as they serve to unify regions and social groups. My beloved late Mom was from Dayton, Ohio and until I entered elementary school I never realized that some of the words she used were Midwestern slang and not necessarily acceptable outside of our home. I did find something very interesting when I traveled to Kingston, Jamaica in the late 80s early 90s. Some of the words I heard my mother use every day at home were also being used in Jamaica. Just a different accent.
However dialects and slang not withstanding there is no excuse for poor English usage written or spoken by native-born Americans. Ebonics and/or Black English do not exist for me. I might resort to the vernacular in the “hood” but when I’m out within the greater society proper English is not only essential it’s mandatory.
Of course, my English is not perfect. In fact I’m always a work in progress which is the main reason my desk is a mess. I always need many reference books at hand to complete just one page of work! One day maybe all the various rules and regulations that govern English will just come to mind automatically instead of my always having to look things up. Pray for me y’all!! LOL!!
Last year I was part of an English Language association called Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature. Their motto is “Binding Together Lovers of Our Language”. If anyone is interested in joining the address is:
Post Office Box 321
Braselton, GA 30517
The newsletter SPELL/Binder features many articles on Punctuation and Grammar, Pet Peeves, plus Novelists No-Nos, as well as articles on how the mother tongue is being murdered via the media. It is a very interesting publication.