Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Campus Newspapers and the Battle for the English Language

You have to love campus newspapers. When I was at BYU I griped constantly about the quality of the writing in the Daily Universe. Little did I know what I was in for reading The Technician at NC State. NC State didn't have a journalism staff and they made the Universe look like a top flight operation. The downward trend has continued here at my new job. Now, this is a community college, so I wasn't planning to be impressed, but I think you will appreciate two of the offerings from the editorial section.

First editorial: "Lack of educational passion becoming a major issue"

The headline hints that the column is going to be an impassioned diatribe against students who just don't care about their education; and one hopes the writing isn't so poor that it brings the "educational passion" of the columnist into question. But alas . . . Here is the opening paragraph: "It has become evident to me that more and more students are beginning to lack compassion for their overall education." See, they just don't care anymore! She then describes her disdain for those who misuse "there", "their" and "they're," etc. "Maybe [this] comes from the respect I have (and think everyone should encompass) for the English language. If we can't communicate properly, what does that say for us?" Uh oh, there's the setup for this great sentence that comes later. "We all have the girl in our class whose rapid, repetitious tapping of text messages on her cell phone has not only annoyed us to the point of no return and hindered our ability to listen to our instructor's lecture, but we can't possibly imagine that she has grasped the concept of neural communication." What the . . . ? The column meanders downhill from there.

Second editorial: "Media: Leave Bristol Palin alone!"

Just leave her alone! You don't care about Bristol, all you care about is money! All you want is more, more, more, more, more!!!!! Okay, that's not how it really goes but I will spare you any direct quotations. Take home message: it's not right to judge, so stop!

The irony of this post is that I just wasted 15 minutes describing how "lame" two other columns were (by well-meaning community college FRESHMEN nonetheless) and my last substantive post on this blog was when? Yikes! The point is, crummy English is bothersome, but potentially even more bothersome are the self-appointed grammar police who roam the internet drowning blog and news article comment sections with their pet peeve warfare. (The sweetest irony is when these folks misspell grammar, e.g. "grammer cop".) So where's the happy medium, the golden mean? I can't just let our language devolve into a pathetic morass of texting shorthand (JK, LOL!). How can I fight for linguistic integrity without becoming a petty, obnoxious nitpicker!?!

P.S. All comments attempting to correct capitalization, spelling, grammar or punctuation in this post will be deleted and you will be sacked. (TIC!!!!!)


  1. Hey, at least they didn't use "beg the question" incorrectly ;)

  2. yes! thanks aaron for pointing out the begs the question issue. we should also start website and supporting merchandise campaign for the abuse of "i couldn't care less." if that looks wrong to you, you are guilty.

    other noble causes:
    -i.e. vs. e.g.
    -further and farther
    -per se

    so wait, is this what rob is attacking or supporting?

  3. That's just the dilemma. To fight or not to fight? To forbear graciously or correct relentlessly?

    When couldn't care less is misused it stings.

    Help me on further and farther. Further is abstract, farther is a literal distance?

  4. It's about time someone stood up for poor Bristol Palin.Those media jerks.

    It's obvious that we've all gotten older and are starting to care a bit about language and proper language practices. Which I think is good, and a bit nerdy.

    I still say 'larf' instead of 'lark', because I'm a dummy.

  5. "Nerd's"

    So...uhh...you used that apostrophe incorrectly on purpose, just to bait me, didn't you?

    Well, I'm above that.

  6. one of my clients uses apostrophe's for all of his plural's. he also ends every phrase over the phone with "at the end of the day..." he also begins many phrases with "at the end of the day..."

    once i had a conversation with a fellow photographer and i used the word 'ubiquitous' in reference to some photographic trend in too frequent use. in the rest of our 10 minute chat, he used the word 'ubiquitous' to mean 'ambiguous' a total of 3 times. i felt like such a pious nerd.

  7. and yes, rob. you are safe with your further's and farther's.