Language Tells About You More Than Any
Other Activity of Your Life
I. Read the text and answer the questions.
The way you use language tells more about you than any other activity of your life. What you say and how you say it are more revealing of your intelligence, personality, and character than the ways you dress, eat, walk, read or make your living. Knowing how to read and write is a significant accomplishment for everyone, but neither reading nor writing is an essential part of anyoneвЂ™s factual existence. Communicating with others through some sort of speech signals is essential however.
Everyone obviously can read and certainly can communicate with others. Most people spend many school years learning to read, but few of us have ever paid real attention to learning how to speak and write. In infancy we learned to speak, have talked ever since, and now assume that talking is as simple and as natural as breathing. It isnвЂ™t.
More time, opportunities, money, and friendships are lost through careless, slovenly, inaccurate speech (and writing) than through any other activity of peopleвЂ™s lives. Because no one can speak perfectly (any more than he can read perfectly), this condition will persist. And yet everyone can learn to speak and write with greater confidence, fewer errors, and more genuine communication if he will only study his habits and give the problem of communication with others the attention it fully deserves.
In every speaking situation, oneвЂ™s aim should be to use only words and phrases that are appropriate, fit, suitable, and proper. The appropriateness of language is determined by the subject being discussed, the place where talk is taking place, and the identity and relationship of speaker and listener. Each of us employs a different level of usage depending upon whether we are speaking or writing, upon our audience or readers, and upon the kind of occasion involved.
The words we use in talking with the person working at the desk next to us may not be appropriate when we are conversing with a member of our family, with a company official, or with a minister, rabbi, or priest. A word or phrase in correct or suitable usage a decade ago may now be outmoded. An expression appropriate in one section of the country may be unclear and therefore ineffective in another locality. Technical expressions used before a specialized group of listeners may be inappropriate in general conversation.
The best course to follow is to try to choose and use words and expressions that are normally employed by reputable speakers in all sections of the country at the present time. That is, diction is effective and appropriate when it is in national, present, and reputable use. Any word or expression is correct if it meets these three standards; it may also be effective (appropriate although not вЂњcorrectвЂќ) if it does not meet these standards but is used for a particular purpose in a particular situation.
Among cultural levels of speech may be included illiteracies, narrowly local dialects, ungrammatical speech, slovenly vocabulary and construction, and an excessive resort to slang, shoptalk, and even profanity and obscenity. On a higher level is the language spoken by cultured people over wide areas; such speech is clear, relatively concise, and grammatically correct. In general, these two levels may be referred to as substandard and standard, with the latter category divided into informal standard and formal standard. Functional varieties of speech may loosely be grouped in two classes, familiar and formal. Included in functional varieties of speech independent of cultural levels are colloquialisms. Such expressions exist in varying degrees of formality: familiar conversation, private correspondence, formal conversation, public worship, platform speech, and so forth.
For every occasion when one needs to speak formally, a hundred or a thousand situations involve informal talk. Here the aim should be to speak naturally and easily, with as much interest and animation as one can summon up. No matter how important what one has to say is, and no matter how interested one is in saying that something, he should try to choose words to fit the occasion. In doing so, he should strive to avoid such roadblocks to effective communication as illiteracies, improprieties, grammatical errors, excessive slang, unidiomatic expressions, wordiness, and triteness.
The belief that вЂњanything goesвЂќ in the use of language can be embarrassing and costly. Speech and writing that communicate are one thing; speech and writing that do so clearly, interestingly, and effectively are something else. Literacy and competency are different matters. Naturalness and ease in speaking and writing are worthwhile goals, but casualness, ignorance, and lack of concern are destructive attitudes in reaching for them. Certain language standards are important. The credo of the English editors is that expressed by Theodore M. Bernstein of The New York Times in Watch Your Language:
To be sure, the English language is a changing and growing thing. All its users have, of course, a perceptible effect upon it. But in changing and growing it needs no contrived help from chitchat columnists or advertising writers or comic-strip artists or television speakers. It will evolve nicely by itself. If anything, it requires protection from influences that try to push it too fast. There is need, not for those who would halt its progress altogether, but for those who can keep a gentle foot on the brake and a guiding hand on the steering wheel...
II. Answer the questions:
1. What is the appropriateness of language determined by?
2. When is diction effective and appropriate?
3. List the cultural levels of speech.
4. What levels are differentiated in the language spoken by cultured people?
5. What are functional varieties of speech?
6. Why are language standards important?
10 Commandments for a Student
Read the ten commandments, explain their meaning and say whether you follow them.
1. Thou shalt not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.
2. Thou shalt not be fearful, for most of the things we fear never come to pass.
3. Thou shalt not cross bridges before you get to them, for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.
4. Thou shalt face each problem as it comes. You can handle only one at a time anyway.
5. Thou shalt not take problems to bed with you for they make very poor bedfellows.
6. Thou shalt not borrow other peopleвЂ™s problems. They can take better care of them than you can.
7. Thou shalt not try to relive yesterday for good or ill вЂ“ it is gone. Concentrate on what is happening in your life today.
8. Thou shalt count thy blessings, never overlooking the small ones, for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.
9. Thou shalt be a good listener, for only when you listen do you hear ideas different from your own. ItвЂ™s very hard to learn something new when youвЂ™re talking.
10. Thou shalt not become bogged down by frustration, for 90 percent of it is rooted in self-pity and it will only interfere with positive action.
Puzzle SchoolвЂ™s In!
Proper English Getting Murkier
Experts: Gap grows in lingo
Read the text and scan the language and culture problems stated in it. Discuss the problems with your partner. Is the contribution of black people to the English langusge negative or positive?
New Haven, Conn. вЂ“ Ernestine Pugh Huckaby is a prim, 50ishвЂ™ woman who favors pearls, understated polka dots and wire-rimmed glasses. She may not walk the walk, but she sure knows how to talk the talk.
вЂњHey, yo! Come here, bro. WhatвЂ™s the real deal?вЂќ Huckaby says, rendering one of her conversational starters when out investigating cases for the New Haven public defender.
вЂњTheyвЂ™ll smile. WeвЂ™ll talk,вЂќ she said, regaining her courtly manner. вЂњTheyвЂ™ll tell me they were вЂ