What Is “Correct” English?
Recently, I sent the following e-mail to some friends and relatives. I had received a “joke” where the humor was derived from the way someone spelled and pronounced a name. My e-mail was designed to encourage a response to the “joke,” focusing on the importance of using “correct English” and providing different points of view for this posting.
Here’s the e-mail with the “joke.”
How To Pronounce Le-a
I received the following recently and was wondering what you thought of it. I have been thinking about doing a blog posting on “What’s the value of using ‘correct English’ when speaking and writing?”
Many of you, over the past few years, have expressed to me your feelings and/or thoughts regarding this. Sometimes you have criticized, made fun, joked, snarled, laughed, etc.
I’m wondering if you have any strong feelings about the “incorrect use of English.”
Please share, if you care. :-)
How would you pronounce this child’s name? “Le-a”
Leah?? NO Lee – A?? NOPE Lay – a?? NO Lei?? Guess Again. This child attends a school in Detroit, MI.. Her mother is irate because everyone is getting her name wrong. It’s pronounced “Ledasha”, When the Mother was asked about the pronunciation of the name, she said, “the dash don’t be silent.” SO, if you see something come across your desk like this please remember to pronounce the dash. If they axe you why, tell them the dash don’t be silent.
OK, I’m sure you can see an element of sensitivity in the “joke.” Some of my friends immediately said that the “joke” was from a racist. Of course, they thought that since the child attends school in Detroit, MI and “ask” was pronounced as “axe,” that a reasonable implication is the mother and child are black. I’m not sure that is a fair implication, but I do see the possibility. Having stated that, there was a hidden reason for me to ask my friends and relatives for a response.
You see, I am guilty of purposely using incorrect English on my website. I have a site for math tutoring and enrichment called “R2Math4U” and I know that the title is not “correct English,” or is it? As you might imagine, I have a reason for the title. Let me explain. “R2” is for Ron Rogers. “Math” is for math. “4” has two different meanings. First, the “4” is for “for.” :-) Second, the “4” is for the cardinal number four. How am I using it as the number four, you asked? Well, I am offering math tutoring and enrichment in four different ways – one to one, telephone, e-mail, and through the website. And last, but not least, the “U” is for you. Therefore, R2Math4U means that Ron Rogers is offering math tutoring and enrichment four different ways for you!
I think the mother in the “joke” and I are guilty of the same incorrect use of the English language. That is assuming we are incorrectly using the language. Perhaps we are simply using the language in a creative way. In 1940, what did the word “astronaut” mean? In 1950, what did the word “software” mean? In 1960, what did “email” mean? In 1970, what did “AIDS” mean? In 1980, what did “www” mean? In 1990, what did “blog” mean? And how do you pronounce, Web 2.0? I’ll bet you say “web 2 point oh” and not “web 2 and zero tenths.” Ok, ok, I’m sure you see my point. We are constantly inventing new “words” and new ways to write and pronounce words. Perhaps R2Math4U and Le-a are examples.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that my maternal grandfather pronounced “ask” as “axe.” No, he wasn’t black, but a white man who immigrated from Copenhagen, Denmark and spoke with a strong Danish accent. He also spoke incorrect English (i.e. the dash don’t be silent). If the joke had used the word “father” instead of “mother” and if my mother’s name was Le-a instead of Lola, then it could have been about my family. :-)