They did it again. A television news reporter speaking about the terrible mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, last week said the couple responsible lived in the same house as his mother and “they didn’t know” about the couple’s bomb-making activities.
They? Did he have more than one mother, or did we not know whether Mom was a man or a woman? What’s wrong with using she?
Have we completely destroyed the English language for political correctness?
For hundreds of years, the pronouns he and him were for a male or when the gender was not known. She and her were for a female. But that’s sexists, said some of the new PC crowd. Using he when it might be for a woman somehow diminishes the fairer sex. How?
So they came up with the plural pronoun to be used with either a single or a plural noun. And that’s wrong.
And when the gender of the noun is clear, why do we still need to use the plural pronoun?
Some of the nuttier have even invented words so we don’t have to insult women by using offending pronouns. I won’t even go there.
I have also heard educators and others use a plural pronoun for a single noun. That teaches our children how to violate basic grammar at an early enough age, it will be cemented forever in their heads.
We also get very confused about other uses of those pronouns. We don’t say, “Me and him are going to the movies.” It should be he and I. But that does not work in the objective form.
Marie gave it to he and I. You don’t say she gave it to he, or she gave it to I. So why is it he and I?
He and I are subjective. They are the ones doing the action. Him and me are objective, the ones receiving the action.
Earlier, I heard an anchor for a major news organization say that someone “had wrote” something. Scritch, fingernails on a blackboard. How did he get that job with no better grasp of the English language?
Wrote is the past tense of to write and takes no auxiliary verb, like have. Written is the right word.
When my kids were teenagers and should have been old enough to know basic grammar rules, I was shocked when they would say something like “we have went.” What were they teaching them in school?
Then I realized kids that age are strongly influenced by peer pressure. If all their buddies are saying “we have went,” well, they will too.
The problem is, pretty soon it starts to sound correct and you use that language when it’s important not to – like a job interview.
It may be cool, son. But that’s a good way to stay unemployed.
But, hey, they were teenagers. This professional reporter was paid well, presumably because he knows how to talk.
And do we have to use words so trite and stale, they spoil an intelligent conversation? A few I have grown very tired of include “throw [someone] under the bus,” “kick the can down the road,” “needle in a haystack” and “... so it will never happen again.
Also, “at the end of the day,” “don’t change horses in the middle of a stream,” “ducks in a row” and “when the chickens come home to roost.”
And leave no stone unturned to protest these:
“Throw the baby out with the bath water,” “the whole nine yards,” “let me be clear …” “bottom line” and “all the tea in China.”
If the movers and shakers in our society can’t use proper English, how in the world can we expect our children to know the difference?
Let’s all learn again how to speak our language.
Jim Street covers Alpine and Brewster County for the Avalanche. He can be reached at 432-837-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org or 118 N. 5th St.