Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Death of the Adverb

I understand that the English language is changing and that it is foolish to think that we can speak and write as our parents and grandparents did. But I still fight against the death of the adverb in spoken English here in the US.

This morning I heard a student from one of the best high schools in the country say that she was "real excited" about volunteer work she was doing. Real excited, not really excited. Up until the past year or so, I thought that that kind of obvious mistake would mark the speaker as uneducated, but no longer.

Some would say, and rightly so, that there are different standards for written and spoken English. The problem is that over time spoken English influences written English, and influences it for the worse. The subjunctive is hardly ever used in spoken English and it is disappearing in written English. The transitive verb "to lay" is quickly displacing the intransitive verb "to lie," and were I to say, "I lie in the road," one might think that I meant that I was not telling the truth to a member of the Highway Patrol.

Compared to much else that is wrong today, these are, I admit , minor concerns. This is not, as my mother used to say, a ditch in which I am willing to die. I am willing, however, to resist this tide of change, to use adverbs gladly, to say "lie" when I mean "lie," and to say "If I were president" and not "If I was...."

1 comment:

Chris said...

I'm afraid it's crossing the Atlantic too - but I shall continue to wage my pedantic war against such imports!