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View Poll Results: Decline of literacy - who is to blame?
Parents 25 23.36%
Teachers 6 5.61%
Government 8 7.48%
The internet 0 0%
Mobile phones 2 1.87%
All of the above 40 37.38%
Other (please specify) 13 12.15%
TV 13 12.15%
Voters: 107. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 12.02.2007, 16:39
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What ever happened to literacy?

Those of you who have been on the forum for a while know that this is one of my pet peeves. The other day I was reading a completely unrelated article in The Economist about migration that prompted me to consider whether I should maybe start a thread on this topic. The article begins like this:

Quote:
Robert, the Polish-born head of a group of British removal men, can read and write English easily, unlike his British colleagues who after packing their cardboard boxes label them as "clovs" and "shuse". Two years ago, when he moved to Britain, Robert lugged heavy loads like them.
Now we all know that standards have slipped and people are no longer ashamed of demonstrating poor use of English (and German, and I guess other languages as well) either at school or in public. I get hot under the collar when I see people saying or writing "exercise regime" when they really meant to say "exercise regimen", a totally unrelated word - but writing "clovs" and "shuse" really shocked me.

Another case in point - the so called "leader of the free world" can barely string a sentence together, yet the voters didn't see that as in any way reflecting on his ability to govern. Has the ability to speak correctly somehow become irrelevant?

So I wanted to kick off a general rant / discussion on the subject. Why has this happened? Who is to blame and what should we do about it? Does anybody care any more or should we all just give up and resort to a series of grunts, as used by our cave-men ancestors? (cue oft-touted argument about language being a living thing, say whatever you want because your errors will become correct if you are persistent enough)
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Old 12.02.2007, 16:54
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

It's also a pet peeve of mine.

Our beautiful language though, is a constantly evolving thing and what is deemed correct now will be nearly unrecognisable in time. Just read any old manuscript from your grandparents' day to see what I mean.

That being said, I cringe when I hear mispronounced words (from English speakers) and text messaging leaves me cold. I'll always insert apostrophes and commas where applicable.

My pet hate? the confusion between "loose" and "lose"

Great thread.
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Old 12.02.2007, 16:59
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

your and you're is also one of mine... Even people who've been to fancy schools do that one all the time. Flashman - perfectly punctuated post, even down to the apostrophe in parents' But since we are into pendandry at the moment I should point out that the "Rappen" in your signature should be written all in lower case...

I was considering adding another option to the poll - "Norwegian field mice" to try and foil those people who wanted to select "all of the above".
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:06
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

I also think that the evolution of language has something to do with it. Languages change. What would you consider to be 'standard' English? If it's a majority rules situation, then american English should be the accepted standard. I know a lot of people who would prefer that the English language not be subjected to any kind of modernization (or modernisation). Colors or colours?

A lot af American English makes sense to me. To say that 150 (one hundred fifty) cups of tea were made as opposed to one hundred AND fifty is more effective.

Another example is the way the Americans refer to the availability in the week. If I tell everyone that I will be away from Monday to Friday; when do you think you can contact me? Will I be back on Friday morning or Friday evening? But to say Monday through Friday makes sense. Saying this will imply that I will be gone throughout Friday.

These are minor changes which I believe enhance the language and add to its inevitable evolution.

I know you are referring to the abomination of the language though. In England you can hear a commonly spoken version of English that would leave you bewildered. You would not understand a word. Innit?

There are a multitude of factors involved from Schools not being able to control the teaching of language, parents not being bothered, or not having been taught properly themselves, TV, Microsoft Office, the internet, societies and cultures becoming more and more intertwined with others. The result is what could be called a linguistic mashup.

I guess I am guilty of the very same crime being bold enough to utter my strange concoction of German/Swedish/Afrikaans.

To keep it short, I am all for the evolution of language but oppose the loss of sematics. Sadly I think that the world and the realm of communication is changing too quickly to accomdate and process the change. Much like a chicken on steroids that is growing too quickly for its legs to carry the weight, I fear we shall become rancid in a morass of our own excretions.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:07
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

My wife was moved by Mexicans to "Swaziland" with her "rocket chair" - but of course they have an excuse as their first language is Spanish and in many parts of the US, you can get away using only Spanish.

I do admit that my spelling is deteriating slowly - but this could be down to the frequency I use certain words. I still recognise when something's spelt wrongly and I am fairly reasonable with my apostrophe use

The key points I see when posting on the internet:
  • if you know your spelling's bad - Firefox 2 or Internet Explorer with iespell or something else can help
  • it's not a phone. txt spk is for morons
  • think about what you're actually posting. A lot of humour is lost when posting on the faceless internerd
I checked "everything" in the poll. Upon reflection, reading most decent online sites (newspapers, serious information portals, etc) does not disturb me; the idea that a picture can replace a thousand words is sometimes over-used (and abused).

The most annoying sin I see is this: Sin's. Yes, more than one sin; not belonging to somone named Sin. Even if you struggle with the apostrophe, at least get pluras (not plural's) right
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:17
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

This is something I am also concerned about and annoyed by.

I have seen many educated people use "cloths" for "clothes", confuse your and you're, can't figure which their/they're/there is appropriate, suppose for supposed and don't have the first clue about appropriate apostrophe placement.

I knew a girl back in the US who was an English teacher. She knew her literature inside and out, but her spelling? Dear god. I once asked her how she could be an English teacher if she couldn't spell properly. She just shrugged her shoulders. She's also not stupid, but you'd never know it from looking at her writing. She no longer teaches, thankfully.

I believe the decline is a bit of all of the above, along with a general decline in self-pride for a job well done. Half-assed works most of the time, or so it seems.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:20
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

Apostrophes in CD's DVD's 1970's are my pet hate (though I quite liked the 1970s actually).

This apostrophe error has become so common that it is now becoming correct, if you see what I mean...
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:21
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

I'm surprised at the omission of television from your poll. Watching TV is almost universal as a pastime in modern society, and it makes little demands on the part of the viewer to record (mentally) anything for later communication.

The internet in my opinion is actually a benefit as most of the web is currently text based (and anything that encourages kids to read...blah blah).

Computer-use itself is another culprit, and wordprocessing in particular: have you ever tried writing a letter recently ? I mean writing, with a pen on paper.

My letter-writing procedure is :

1. add address
2. add signature at bottom
3. add "i look forward to hearing from you, and please contact me if you have any questions" at the bottom
4. add summary as first paragraph
5. provide reasoning to follow first paragraph.

All this is done on a word processor, and I can cut & paste; rearrange paragraphs, sentences and formatting.
Writing a letter from top to bottom is a skill I had completely forgotten, and it took me several attempts to get it right. There is no longer the need in the computer age to structure your thoughts and expressions into any sort of order before committing them to paper (or disc).

My pet hates:
  1. practice is a noun, practise is a verb.
  2. management bullshit words
  3. any use of the word prioritise or facilitate
  4. anyone that use "laters" to end a message
  5. made-up "-ation" words a la Bush: "brutalization"
dave

PS: "regimen" and "regime" have been considered synonyms for quite a few years now.

Quote:
your and you're is also one of mine... Even people who've been to fancy schools do that one all the time. Flashman - perfectly punctuated post, even down to the apostrophe in parents' But since we are into pendandry at the moment I should point out that the "Rappen" in your signature should be written all in lower case...

I was considering adding another option to the poll - "Norwegian field mice" to try and foil those people who wanted to select "all of the above".
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:22
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

wenn i woz at skule..... in the late 70's & early 80's, there seemed to be a transition between the eras of 3R's emphasis to one where creativity and expression was more valued. Grammar and spelling was no longer taught or corrected. Amusingly I have learnt more about the technical terms of grammar since attempting to learn German.

So my writings are flawed but free, man. Blame the hippies

Ohh and I hate that 3R term, reading, writing and arithmetic.

My personal mission is to keep English/Australian spelling conventions alive. Saviour of the caramelised flavours. Now where's my spellchecker.......
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:27
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

Another cause is the pressure put on us for an instant response. Mobile phones texts, and emails mean that we are given less time to think and consider. Look at any copper-plate scripts of a hundred years ago,and you can see the care that was put into office documents. Nowadays you're lucky to get a scribble on a post-it note.

dave

Quote:
Those of you who have been on the forum for a while know that this is one of my pet peeves. The other day I was reading a completely unrelated article in The Economist about migration that prompted me to consider whether I should maybe start a thread on this topic. The article begins like this:


Now we all know that standards have slipped and people are no longer ashamed of demonstrating poor use of English (and German, and I guess other languages as well) either at school or in public. I get hot under the collar when I see people saying or writing "exercise regime" when they really meant to say "exercise regimen", a totally unrelated word - but writing "clovs" and "shuse" really shocked me.

Another case in point - the so called "leader of the free world" can barely string a sentence together, yet the voters didn't see that as in any way reflecting on his ability to govern. Has the ability to speak correctly somehow become irrelevant?

So I wanted to kick off a general rant / discussion on the subject. Why has this happened? Who is to blame and what should we do about it? Does anybody care any more or should we all just give up and resort to a series of grunts, as used by our cave-men ancestors? (cue oft-touted argument about language being a living thing, say whatever you want because your errors will become correct if you are persistent enough)
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:28
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

Quote:
I believe the decline is a bit of all of the above, along with a general decline in self-pride for a job well done. Half-assed works most of the time, or so it seems.
I think you hit the nail on the head there. Half-assed is the order of the day. I remember as a child growing up in Australia we always had "community service" ads which playe alongside the commercial ads. You know, how to eat properly, throw your rubbish in the bin, etc. One of them was all about "near enough isn't good enough" under the slogan "Advance Australia fair". It was basically saying get off your lazy backside, do a good job and try and help to advance the country with the little stuff.

Well that was the generation I grew up in. I think if I were to return to Australia and point out some kind of an error on a sign I'd probably get a reaction like "You wanna make something of it ya f***ng poofta". Well perhaps not quite as strong as that, but I'm sure the Australian readers know EXACTLY what I'm talking about here.

Often American English is used to hide behind mistakes (which aren't really American English at all). For example insure/ensure and affect/effect have distinctly different meanings but are often used interchangeably by Americans. When asked they'll explain that it is American English but strangely you won't see that sort of thing is reading a major published magazine or newspaper in the US...

That said, even The Economist, whom I've generally regarded as the people who "know how to write proper, like" occassionally slip up with the odd dose of regime/regimen or "an historic". I guess nobody is perfect these days.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:29
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

I should of agreed with you.

Some misspellings come, I'm sure, from what people think they're hearing and saying - the above being another common example.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:34
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

I've noticed this a lot. Words are so misused that they take on a life of their own. Many times I've seen a word on the net and thought it was made-up. A short search later finds many records of it- even "dictionaries" and other sites that "define" it. Thank God for the Oxford English Dictionary.

dave



Quote:
Often American English is used to hide behind mistakes (which aren't really American English at all). For example insure/ensure and affect/effect have distinctly different meanings but are often used interchangeably by Americans. When asked they'll explain that it is American English but strangely you won't see that sort of thing is reading a major published magazine or newspaper in the US...
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:34
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

Mark, have you turned off the edit function on this thread?

edit: edit button since turned on :-)

Last edited by Yokine; 12.02.2007 at 19:44.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:37
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

DaveA - you are right I was far too hasty with the poll and have added TV. Except now it is at the bottom and confuses everybody - perfect for the half-assed approach of today's modern world

As far regime and regimen being regarded as a synonymn - I realise that's what a lot of people think, but dictionary (Oxford Modern) seems to list two totally different and unrelated words. Mind you, this dictionary is ten years old...

If it is in fact true and this battle is lost then that would be a perfect example of the language dumbing down. When two words with different meanings suddenly end up becoming the same word part of the language dies. This was after all the purpose behind Orwell's New speak was it not?
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:43
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

mmm not sure I agree. I've always thought "regime" conveyed the meaning quite nicely when talking about exercise or diet. It is close to the army discipline of a regiment, and governmental limits and control.

As regards the combination of words, I'm sure this happens all the time as the language grows and mutates. Whether its a good thing is another question...

dave

Quote:
DaveA - you are right I was far too hasty with the poll and have added TV. Except now it is at the bottom and confuses everybody - perfect for the half-assed approach of today's modern world

As far regime and regimen being regarded as a synonymn - I realise that's what a lot of people think, but dictionary (Oxford Modern) seems to list two totally different and unrelated words. Mind you, this dictionary is ten years old...

If it is in fact true and this battle is lost then that would be a perfect example of the language dumbing down. When two words with different meanings suddenly end up becoming the same word part of the language dies. This was after all the purpose behind Orwell's New speak was it not?
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:53
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

I think that one of the problems within the UK is that very little grammar is taught within state schools. Another problem is that there was a move away from pointing out errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation when students submitted work especially if it was for a subject other than English.

When I started learning German here many of my colleagues on the course had absolutely no idea what a subject or object was. Neither did they have any understanding of what modal verbs, prepositions or many other grammatical terms were. They'd quite simply never been taught them.

I read a lot of blogs written by teachers and found one recently that was written by a teacher who worked for an 'independant' school. We've now got the generation of teachers who were never taught grammar or pushed on their spelling teaching the innit generation.

I think I should go and buy a cardigan and write letters to the Daily Mail.

And Lob Rockster's mention of 'should of' makes me want to murder people.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:53
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

Quote:
mmm not sure I agree. I've always thought "regime" conveyed the meaning quite nicely when talking about exercise or diet. It is close to the army discipline of a regiment, and governmental limits and control.
Ok, from my dictionary:
Regime: 1. a method of system or government, 2. (derogitatory) a particular government, 3. the conditions under which a scientfic or industrial process occurs.
Regimen: a prescribed course of exercise, way of life, and diet.

The origin come from two different French words - régime and regere respectively. Regime is usually something that is imposed on you (for example, if conducting a process like an experiment you must observe certain rules), where a regimen is something you follow yourself. The definitions have a certain overlap, but there is a subtle difference. I notice major publications realising this difference approximately 50% of the time, and almost never in common speech. This suggests to me that some of those who write for a living still know the difference, but that the average person on the street does not. Nonetheless I think there is a difference between those two words, and I wouldn't like to see regimen disappear from the language.

Yokine- I'm working on restoring the edit function - it was turned off for Off-topic but nobody remembers why.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:57
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

Quote:
I should of agreed with you.

Some misspellings come, I'm sure, from what people think they're hearing and saying - the above being another common example.
this is one of my pet hates also, should of and could of, I consider myself to be a decent speller but i do have to admit I do get confused with the use of apostrophes especially the 's and the s' varieties

Another pet hate at the moment along with 'innit' is 'we was' which seems to be a southerner thing. Something I had drummed out of me when I moved to the midlands from the North was saying 'them things' and not 'those things' when I hear people say 'them things' it makes me want to correct them although I don't.

Anyway no doubt I am going to be corrected on many mistakes in this post.

Last edited by Nickers; 12.02.2007 at 18:25.
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Old 12.02.2007, 17:58
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Re: What ever happened to literacy?

arghhh where is the edit button??? spelt apostrophe wrong!! now I have gone and shown myself up!!

Last edited by Nickers; 12.02.2007 at 18:25.
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