Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Most Aggressively Inarticulate Generation, Ya Know?

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.  Stolen shamelessly from Right Network.

After I rightfully received a good verbal drubbing for being inarticulate,  I thought this would push the topic on language and the importance of clarity further forward. So pay attention!

I began to notice this awful trend in American speech about thirty years ago while in high school. It started as a quickly spreading linguistic mold in California and soon infected the speech patterns of my generation in the Pacific Northwest, where I was living at the time. I thought it was funny and mocked my friends who began to speak like this. But let me tell you something. Nothing is funny about a man or a woman who, at nearly 50 years of age, STILL speaks like this.

When my kids began speaking this way, I hounded them.

Here's how you stop this bad habit from taking root in their mouths: Let them hear how they sound whenever they do it by mimicking them. Around their friends. Always in a public place, like the mall. And speak loudly. Talk to their teachers this way. All the time. Relentlessness is the key. Soon enough, they will get tired of hearing it, and it will stop being cool. Nothing kills cool like a parent trying to be cool.

Now, one of the interesting things about living 40 miles from Philly is the regional accent. There are a number of interesting accents in Lancaster County. There's the Philly transplant accent, the Pennsylvania Dutch accent, usually spoken by the elderly natives, and then there's a kind of patois that blends those two with a Baltimore twang, which is the accent  my in laws have. I love hearing it, I often speak with it, and the interesting thing about it is the inversion of the interrogative sentence into a declarative sentence. I first noticed this accentidental oddity while visiting my brother-in-law for the first time. I was sitting in one of the only available chairs, eating my dinner from a paper plate. My 9 year-old nephew came up to me and asked, "Youse'r DONE wid 'at?"  His voice made it a declarative sentence. As if he was saying, "You're done sitting here, get up, so I can sit down."

On the topic of speech 'pediments', I have preferences. Speaking in an accent is fun, and English has so many wonderful accents. My favorite is the transatlantic English accent that you hear in the old movies of the 30s and 40s. Katherine Hepburn is the perfect example of well-spoken transatlantic English.

The voice is a marvelous tool, and used well, it is powerful for many reasons. A well-spoken speech can inspire and motivate. Hearing the dilapidated state of our language  is maddening, but there is hope, because many people have finally noticed and are speaking against its decline.

Here is a good demonstration of accents, all beautifully spoken - if you're looking to change up the one ya gots.

Speechify! And remember:


  1. I vividly remember my dad giving us hell for talking with that rising lilt at the end of our sentences, as if everything were a question. He did just as you said, mocked us for it, mocked us by using it right back at us. It goes down with "never trust a right turn signal" as one of the undying lessons learned from dad.

    Of course, he mocked us all the time for every damned thing you could think of, so I consider myself particularly astute and sagacious for being able, as a 10 year old, to determine the helpful mocking from the merely playful. I am all that is good in man.

  2. Yes, you are, Andy. My kids know too, the difference between cruel belittlement and playful mocking. When I was growing up, it was cruel belittlement, and that takes years and years to undo the damage it causes. I always keep that in mind, and often just bite my acerbic tongue....but sometimes...those darned kids....*shakes fist*

  3. This is really Robo, like I can get down with it, you know. She's got a TOTALLY suckface way of getting her pearlies round those sounds, whadeja think? I mean, just drift on my tone!!!

    Put some real steel thru the flappies an be different THAN all the hos. Why not try AND do it?

    English as another language.

  4. Oh yes, ma main, she do got some chops. And dem pearlies how dey shine forth the light of the toof!


Don't just sit there, say something!