Is “Incorrect” English Ever Correct English?

Is this incorrect English?

I sent the following e-mail to some friends and relatives that contained a joke of which the humor was based on the way someone spelled and pronounced a name. The joke was sent to me by someone I knew only by name. My e-mail to my friends and relatives was designed to encourage a response to the joke that focused on the importance of using “correct English” and provided different points of view for this posting.

The English Royal Navy Flag. (Is this correct English?:-)

First, here’s the e-mail I sent with the joke.


How To Pronounce Le-a

Hello All,

I received the following recently and was wondering what you thought of it. I have been thinking about doing a blog posting on “Is ‘Incorrect’ English Ever Correct English?”

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.  :-)


The Joke

How would you pronounce this child’s name? “Le-a”

"If they 'axe' you, tell them you're a hammer!"


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.

Is this correct English?

You see, I’m guilty of purposely using incorrect English for the title of my blog. I have chosen to name this blog R2 Thoughts 4U and I know the title is not “correct English.” Or, is it?

As you might imagine, I have a reason for the title this blog. Let me explain. “R2” is for Ron Rogers. “Thoughts” are what I focus on when writing for the blog. “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 cardinal number four, you asked? Well, the “thoughts” I am expressing in the blog are presented in four ways: questions, possible answers to the questions, hyper-text links, and pictures. Therefore, R2 Thoughts 4U means that Ron Rogers is presenting thoughts in four different ways for you!

What did "astronaut" mean in 1940?

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 “e-mail” 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 R2 Thoughts 4U 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. :-)

How about a creative comment.

2 Comments on “Is “Incorrect” English Ever Correct English?”

  1. Ron,

    I don’t know if I have a creative comment, but I did find your post thought-provoking, and I think you would love the podcast “A Way with Words” on NPR. Have you listened to that? Fascinating.



  2. Deb,

    You’re comment is most creative. You have created for me a new resource of entertainment. I had not heard the podcast “A Way with Words.” I did a search, listened and enjoyed. On the one I just listened to, the word “hubba-hubba” was discussed. When I was teaching, I often would use that phrase as a friendly reminder to my students to hurry up. I would tell the students it was a well-known phrase used in the 20s. Apparently, I may have been pretty close in that it is thought to have derived from P. T. Barnum’s saying of Haba Haba. :-) Thanks for sharing.


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