Sunday, August 29, 2010

Born in the USA, part 5

One of the greatest classical music concert series of modern times is the BBC Proms. A showcase for excellent music, both new and old, and a venue meant to give access to the "common man" - the promenaders - through cheap, standing-room-only tickets, it is commendable. In the US, I had held the BBC in the utmost regard; it seemed the pinnacle of what a news and entertainment broadcasting corporation could be, like NPR but state-sponsored and immense.
Today, on a TV show from the BBC aimed at small children, I heard a character say "a whole nother."
Now, to hear distinctly British idioms would not surprise me in the least (though it would irritate me). But for a show geared toward children who are still learning the language to blatantly use something incorrect - this angered me no end. I clenched my fists. How could the organization responsible for the Proms - for a two-month-long classical concert of world renown - also be responsible for this, a travesty of the English language? I was hurt.
And then, on my walk home, a girl walking past while on her phone: "asshume." If there is one thing I hate more than all others here, it is the way a preponderance of English people mispronounce assume. My better-educated UK friends assure me that this is not common. But this doesn't explain the number of people I hear say it.
Even now, as I listen to the BBC communicate in a flawless and ethereal violin dialect, I wonder if they were forced to give up one language - English - for the musical other.


  1. OF course, "a whole nother" is vastly irritating, unless consciously said as an example of tmesis (akin to fan-bloody-tastic). However, for a children's programme, it is pretty unforgivable.

    As for the use of "ashume," that goes in the list of many things mispronounced and misused - things common in both countries. The despicable pronunciation of "months" as "munce" (a habit far more common in the US), and the misuse of the word "regular" to mean "frequent" (roughly equally common in both countries) come to mind.

    The problem, which is becoming universally common, is that the importance of language is being degraded to only that of its functionality. Something which is seen as wholly functional, with no artistic value, will be undervalued and abused. Compare the typical treatment of a telephone directory and a novel (even a cheap, run-off-the-mill one).

  2. Granted, there are mispronunciations everywhere a language is met with laziness. It wasn't until I came here, however, that I met with "asshume" for assume, or "sick form" for sixth form, or "Lester" for Leicester (lazy!). And it is that much more difficult for me, to be completely ignored and disregarded when I make corrections: "you're an American, what do you know about English?" (the answer being 'more than you, obviously').
    The evolution of language is something I will have to come to terms with ("with which I will have to come to terms"), whether or not I enjoy it. But flat-out abuse of the language I cannot stand. Not everyone need be a Michaelangelo or Bierstadt, but we can at least not squeeze paint directly into garbage cans out of sheer laziness toward the art of painting.

  3. Kelly, I am in a simular mind. I do not like the abuse of words. And college is full of them. I thank you for listing the Proms link. I have spent the last hour or so listening to the music, once the people stop talking. Theodora


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