How's It Hanging?

Dangling Participles and Falling Standards



Reading sloppy spelling and shoddy syntax on blogs mucks up my English skills. Misspellings that I read too often creep into my writing. Due to the huge quantity of them, errors that used to be stopperswords that cause me to stop the flow of reading to examine what's wrongare now skimmed over with barely a notice: my inner editor is kaput.

     Mistakes depreciate the author's opinion on these blogs but I accept the fact that the author is not in the profession of writing: he or she is a zoo keeper or tightrope walker who is trying to communicate an idea.

     We must tolerate occasion misspellings and questionable grammar in newspapers, local rags in particular, because their budgets may not allow for professional editors. (Don't get me started about spell-checkers.) I disregard mistakes in emails and the rare snail-mailed letter that I receive unless the missive is written in text-message style, for which I have no patience. Writing your emails and letters to me in text-message style is as effective as sending up smoke signals.

     A misspelled epitaph is a grave concern.

     Oral communication is a different matter. We must consider the venue. In casual conversations with my neighbors down the road, I dangle participles with the best of them. Bad sentence structure, mispronunciation, pronoun confusion... my language blunders are easily deduced by the befuddled expression on my neighbor's face. I can then restate the issue using more precise language and inflections, and even employ body language to make a point.  This is natural; it's a peculiar person who speaks flawless English in casual conversations.

     If you're trying to warn me of imminent danger from a rattlesnake, please don't pause to consider language.

     We expect higher standards from public speakers but we forgive sporadic mistakes in interviews with legislators or military commanders, for instance, because words are not their real business: their business is legislating or commanding.

     Who, then, is in the real business of words? One group is that overpaid batch of weather forecasters and news readers on television in Arizona who flub their way through the evening broadcasts. Their mispronunciations, poor enunciation, and bad grammar assault our ears.

     For example, here in the desert the temperature often reaches one hundred degrees and higher. One wouldn't know that from listening to the forecasters: in their world, the "tempature" reaches "a hunnerd". If the thermometer reads one hundred eight (108), the forecaster lives in a world of "a hunnerd AND eight" (100.8). Go "figger".

     Is it too much to expect a person who is paid to say numbers to say them correctly?

     Many news announcers/readers are just as incompetent. It's doubtful that writers of the news write "deppadee" when they mean deputy, "execative" for executive, or "cannidate" for candidate, nor do they report stories about "reelators" (realtors) in "Febuary" (February). Most egregious of this batch of news readers in the evening is the male co-anchor at Fox News, who has mauled the English language at that local station for two decades. He can't plow through a story without uttering "the governor she" or "the sheriff he" or "drivers they".

     Even in informal speech, if I made those errors today, Mrs. Hodan, my sixth-grade English teacher, would spin in her casket.

     I suspect there are recent graduates of broadcast journalism schools who would eagerly replace these inept anchors and do a superior job at a lower cost. Why not try one, or maybe "a hunnerd" of them, at the desks?

--Kathy Noltze



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