"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dubya's grammatical solecisms - it's all Barbara and George Snr's fault

Language Log is a treasure trove of anecdote and example of the precise use of the English language, it's history, development, etymology and often its current, sloppy and imprecise use.

Guru Mark Liberman ***(University of Pennsylvania Linguistic Data Consortium) brought our attention yesterday to the recent remark of the future ex-employer of Karl Rove;

"It surprised me, frankly, because the impression you get from people who are reporting out of Iraq is that it's like totally dysfunctional -- that's what your -- I guess your kind of -- your friend or whoever you talked to is implying. "

Keen followers of the President's more memorable public speeches will remember this was on the occasion of the White House Press corps harassing him after he had signed into law the COMPETES Act on August 9th when he more memorably opened his remarks with ..

"Good morning, thank you. When I came into office in 2001, our nation was headed into a recession. So we cut the taxes across the board......the American economy is the envy of the world"

From inanities to insanities in the course of a few minutes.

Anyway,back to Mark who had a friend who queried the claerly ageing ( he's 60) President's use of what we have become accustomed (we think, but read on) to hear from more youthful destroyers of their mother tongue.

Mark provides a detailed, clear account of his researches which commence with an appropriate record of the actual solecism ..

He includes other examples ;

On July 19, 2007, President Bush said:
"And the reason I say that, it just shows how difficult it is to do what some assume can be done, which is, like, totally seal off the border. "
And on April 2, 2004:
"I mean, I think it's a wonderful story about a mom and a wife who, instead of getting, like totally distraught with the circumstances, says, I'm going to go back to school."

He points out, that we are accustomed to frequent usage by what he describes as "Valley girl" (an anthropological distinction which is not apparent to us goddam limeys - but we like get the idea) as an emphatic adverb meaning something like "definitely", e.g. "omg, that's totally going on my myspace".

He starts by exemplifying the usage as "an occasional modifier of gradable predicates" (like dysfunctional), totally with an illustration from Jane Austen's Emma, the 1950's beat generation ("it's like nowheresville, man") 1960's hippies ("it's like psychedelic, man") making a shrewd guess that the current generation probably learnt it from their parents, rather than the reverse.

He also quotes from an academic paper by Muffy Siegel Like: The Discourse Particle and Semantics in the Journal of Semantics in 2002.

"Using data from interviews with high school students, I first adduce evidence that lends support to Schourup's (1985) claim that the United States English adolescent hedge like is a discourse particle signalling a possible slight mismatch between words and meaning."

In an update today, as a result of reader's comments he has undertaken some more research and searching an academic treasure trove (from the Linguistic Data Corporation dated from 1975-1977) of transcribed telephone conversations ( is this what warrantless surveillance is for ?) of 15,672 female speech and 12,571 conversational sides where the speaker is male.

He makes the surprising finding that there is a considerable sexual distinction in the use of like ; 184,184 for women and 156,799 for men.

Furthermore an analysis of the use of "like" in various word associations reveals an even greater and unexpected sexual divide ...

"In this collection, women used the expression "like I say" 545 times, and the expression "like I said" 2,264 times. But men used "like I say" 563 times, and "like I said", 1,302 times.

For women, the ratio of "like I said" to "like I say" was 4.51 to 1,, whereas for men, it was only 2.3 to 1. "

All this leads him to conclude ;

1. Adults were using discourse-particle like fairly frequently in professional settings, even a decade ago;
2. Contrary to stereotype, men apparently use it more than women do.

Taught the principles of constructing an English sentence at Altrincham Grammar School by the lofty and haughty Mr Brian Millard ( for whom we had the hugely original nickname of Milord), who used to scatter red ink exclamation marks across our work, for the incorrect use of gerunds or a hanging participle, as he scoured (and scored through) our essays with the enthusiasm and skill of a hungry truffle hound. Lord Patel will now, thanks to Language Log have an ear finer tuned to the usages of "like" amongst 60 year old men approaching their retirement.

Also with a little more tolerance of a younger generation, to whom one of their more irritating spoken solecisms of our language, has evidently originated long before their birth.

So we can therefore blame Barbara and George (Snr.) for their son's mangling of the language - and we had always blamed the booze, drugs and dissolute lifestyle as a rich, spoilt kid who never really grew up after his adolescence.

***Responsible for ..(2004) "The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture's greatest source of idioms, catchphrases and sundry other textual allusions." (see Times 11/8/07)

This drawing illustrating the above has been stolen from Mr Murdoch


Llewellyn said...

Mmmmm...valley girls. Oh for the days Gossamer Beynon walked by.

Shutter said...

Right idea but the wrong valley.

(C) Very Seriously Disorganised Criminals 2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 - copy anything you wish