Saturday, 7 June 2014

Is it me?

A petty irritation niggles at me every Saturday when the farmer opens his Yorkshire paper.   He takes it all week but on Saturdays it has various supplements including one which is all about the country.  I enjoy reading it.

But one thing really gets at me.   One of the contributors writes a weekly, chatty article outlining what she has been doing all week.   But, instead of using chatty language she will use 'big' words and it always seems so unnecessary.

For a few examples:
noticed, instead of saw (I noticed that sheep had been clipped)
luncheon, instead of lunch (the luncheon was delicious)
tasks, instead of jobs (help with a few gardening tasks)
donated, instead of gave (she donated me a much better......)
purchased, instead of bought (I purchased several things)
ventured forth, instead of went for a walk (to see the town)

Is this petty nit-picking?   It happens on television too, on antiques programmes, when the expert asks 'where did you get this?' the person often answers 'I purchased it at a car boot sale'.   What is wrong with 'bought' or even 'got'.

Maybe I am guilty of this on my blog (if I am will you tell me, please) but it always seems to me that if you are writing a chatty article then you use chatty language.  Is it just me?

On a completely different subject, I see in today's paper that the Government are pledging to 'eradicate illiteracy within a generation'.   Fifteen percent of children leave Primary School without this skill - a skill which becomes absolutely vital once they reach Comprehensive School, where everything moves at a faster pace and many of the classes may well be mixed ability classes.

Might I make a few suggestions (as an ex-Head of Deparment in a large Comprehensive in a very deprived inner city area) - give the schools more expertly trained, dedicated and committed teachers who know what they are doing in teaching the skills involved in learning to read and write, keep the classes small, and do bear in mind that many of the children we are speaking about come into Primary School having barely held a pencil or seen written language.

And, changing the subject again - the farmer has just cut the verges of the Lane - I am desperately hoping those baby rabbits got out of the way in time.


Elizabeth said...

It's not just you! Really, I think it is best to suit one's lords to the task in hand.
What drives me quite batty is when in books the author tags all the conversation thus:
"I love you, my darling," she whispered sweetly.....
""You bastard! You've killed my wife!" he shouted angrily.
"Run for your lives! The building is about to blow up" he boomed loudly.....
You get the idea.
Pretentious language is really just a failure of understanding.

As regards children learning to read etc. My experience in the inner city (i.e. Peckham early 70's) was to try to find books the children really enjoyed. My classroom was next to the library and the librarian was super. One period a week we had "Silent reading" - strictly enforced. The librarian and I would sit, one on one, with children who were struggling. Stickers were given out for completing books and actually managing to stick to the task at hand.
This worked wonders. I'm not sure the modern child ever has a minute free of screens of all kinds -TV's , phones etc etc.
Gosh what a long comment on a Saturday morning when Buster wants to head to the park.

Hope the baby rabbits survived?

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

I think I use a mix -sometimes I use hyperbole just for fun. Must venture forth now to begin the day. See ya!

Tom Stephenson said...

Bad writing is always bloody irritating. I don't know how most of the people get those jobs on local magazines for which they get paid about £150 per irritating article.

The worst we have here in Bath is an ex rugby player who seems to think he is talking to a load of his laddish mates, complaining about vegetarian weight-loss diets, yoga and all sorts of Jeremy Clarkson type bollocks.

MorningAJ said...

The only one of those words I have a problem with is 'luncheon' because nobody 'normal' uses it. But the rest are perfectly good words. Journalism is not the same as creative writing. 'Got' is forbidden in most newsrooms because it's too generic. It could mean anything. You obviously don't like her style, but that doesn't make it bad writing.

As for children learning to read. I think it's about time parents took a bit of the responsibility. I could already read (with a reading age of 10. Remember those?) by the time I started school.

Cro Magnon said...

I'm not keen on 'got', and 'gotten' makes me lose my breakfast.

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Hey Cro Magnon - gotten is standard American English for the past tense of got.
Like: I could have gotten it myself. I am told it is archaic in Britain, so I can see how it would bother you. I think I learned about it in Bill Bryson's book The Mother Tongue.

jinxxxygirl said...

Perhaps you are being a bit nit picky but i totally understand what your saying.... there is such a thing as 'chatty language' and 'language you use to impress someone'.

They try to put band aid after band aid on problems such as schools when the only real way to fix it is to spend more money on more teachers and better teachers but thats absolutely the one thing they won't do.

Oh i do hope the rabbits are safe too!

Nick said...

Sadly, pretentious pomposity - otherwise known as being a stuck-up git - is all too common (common as muck springs to mind).

Mac n' Janet said...

As a retired teacher I have to say that keeping classes small makes all the difference in the world. I've taught classes of 15 and classes of 40 and everyone in the first class learned to read, I can't say that about the class of 40.

angryparsnip said...

American schools are a mess.
First good school start with parents RESPONSIBILITY.
Government is to build and protect schools. And most of all pay the teachers a decent wage.
The border state I live in has a huge population of children who never hear any English at home. Even as they grow older. Not even on TV it is Spanish 24/7. How can you succeed when you can't speak, write or read the language of the country you live in.
I have several teacher friends who said it was like banging their heads against a wall. So many parents just don't care.

Sorry I just went off on a rant.
Education is so important to me and my family. And so many parents (?) today just not important. They have no desire because it is someone else responsibility not theirs. I wonder why they have children if they don't want to take care of them.

Hope the baby bunnies survived.

cheers, parsnip

Twiggy said...

Ooooo I agree, I really do not like Americanisms one of my pet hates is when people say they were gifted something !!! In fact I'm such a pedant that I can't read books by many American authors.
As for reading in schools, I work in a small village first school, we have a loveley group of local Grandmas who come in and listen to the children read on a weekly basis, everyone enjoys it. I feel if teachers spent less time doing paperwork, producing statistics and doing government enforced benchmarking exercises and actually taught, we'd be a lot better off.
I also think parents should stop being idle and encourage children to read at home. I know many of us have busy lives but we always found 10 minutes at bedtime to read to our son and now he's 9 he reads to us :) Good excuse for me to sneak some cuddles at the same time !

Heather said...

Run, rabbit run!!!
Perhaps the journalist is not aware of having stopped being chatty by trying too hard to use good English!
It is shameful that so many children are still illiterate by the time they start secondary school. Their parents should be held partly responsible for this. There must be many who send their children off to school with never a thought as to what progress they are making.

The Solitary Walker said...

All the words you cite are perfectly fine — in the right context. But I understand the point you are making and couldn't agree more. George Orwell said it all when he argued for plain and direct expression in his essay 'Politics and the English Language'. As Nick says, it's pompous and pretentious to use highfalutin and circumlocutory language, unless it's being used for ironic or parodic purposes etc. However, this is not to say one shouldn't use difficult or obscure words — it all depends if they are the RIGHT word for the job, if they are 'le mot juste'.

Actually Journalism can be such a good discipline for the would-be creative writer: you are forced to condense, simplify, say things as concisely and informatively as possible.

I have always admired your work(wo)manlike prose, Pat.

the veg artist said...

I also dislike the use of pretentious words when a simple one would do. Our English teacher would not allow fancy language, although perhaps she was also the cause of me finding it so annoying in others!

Terry and Linda said...

I so agree with Elizabeth...pretentious language is a failure or understanding.


George said...

Like you, Pat, I dislike pretension in the use of words. Much depends, however, on place and customs. What is pretentious in one locale may be quite common in another. I also think there are some different nuances with certain words. For example, when I "see" something, it may be fleeting and impressionistic, whereas when I "notice" something, I am generally paying enough attention to "take note" of the situation.

Loren said...

Yep. It's probably you : >)

Wordpress has a proofreader that reminds you when you're using "inflated" language, and usually I'll take their suggestion. When the "inflated" word is closer to what I'm trying to say so I'll override the suggestion and use the most accurate word.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for joining in. Your comments are really interesting (and varied).
With regard to literacy though, the point I should have made was that in some inner city deprived areas there is not much point is putting the onus on parents because many of these parents have poor reading skills themselves.
Elizabeth's comments (opposite) are interesting and I think it is important that the 'right' books are chosen. Also, I love Twiggy's comment about local Grandma's coming in to help - now that is a brilliant idea.

thelma said...

Think I will be quiet on this one, just in case I get it wrong ;)but would point out, that though the computer is seen as destroying the reading of books, in actual fact children have to read to use it.

Crafty Green Poet said...

A lot of people think that using 'big' words makes them seem more itelligent, but in fact the opposite is true. Research has shown that even with academic writing the writer comes across as more intelligent when they use more Plain English. Of course in academia there is a place for 'big' words but even there they need to be used sensibly.

And Elizabeth makes a very good point in her comment about dialogue tags in books.

I hope the rabbits are okay....

Cloudia said...

I enjoy shadings of less basic words sometimes myself. Hope it comes off rich, not pretentious