Today’s prompt asks us to choose a single word that would forever ban from general use. That is a lot more complicated that I would have thought. In 2013 there are so very many from which to choose!
I was raised by a Belgian immigrant who was all too proud to have learned, nay, taught himself English and a mother who was a voracious reader and English major. Both of whom were avid proponents of correctly utilizing the English language.
In our house we were expected to speak it properly at all times. Slang was “verboten” as my dad would say. So growing up in California, in the late 60s, it was an epic pain in the ass being corrected at every turn and chastised for employing the use of then-hip words such as “bitchen’” or using words like “radical” in a context that was contrary to their intended use. At times we felt like freaks and, in fact, were even called that by our peers.
That said, as painful as that may have been at the times, today I am very grateful for being “schooled” by my parents as I feel it helped me to appreciate the beauty of my native tongue being spoken properly. However, make no mistake; I do not profess to be any literally genius by any stretch of the imagination. In my experience I am considerably better spoken than a vast majority of people with whom I come into daily contact.
It has come to the point where it hurts my ears to listen to some people speaking, particularly young people. It feels as if with the onset of cyber speak and text messaging English has entered a contraction phase where anything possible must be abbreviated or shorted for the sake of an illogical sense of economy. As if it is too distressful to take the nanoseconds needed to speak in complete sentences, or people are just too lazy, I haven’t yet decided. Possibly it is a combination of the two?
So getting back to the one word I would ban from existence, I would have to travel back to the 15 years I spent living in Philadelphia. For those of you who live there, I think you might be able to surmise where I am going with this, for those of you who don’t I will elaborate. We all know that there are regional accents and colloquialisms that are particular to those regions. The south has it’s “ya’ll” and Boston has it long “a” and the upper mid west has this thing it does with words like “Bears” that I have yet to define with any descriptive specificity.
Philadelphians regularly integrate the word (even now I cringe at calling it that) “yous” into their vernacular in place of the word “you.” “What can I get for yous?” Would yous like some more coffee?” “Where are yous going this weekend?” “Did yous catch that Phillies game last night?” To my ear it is akin to nails on a chalkboard. My hackles regularly rose every time I heard it being used. And, as if using that “word” wasn’t bad enough, it has been taken to a more absurd level where people have literally engaged in heated arguments as to it’s “correct” spelling, if you can believe that! This didn’t spew from the lips of just working class people, either, it was all classes. No matter how educated and otherwise well spoken you may be, injecting an occasional “yous” into a conversation made you sound like such a cretin.
So when my daughter started school while we lived in Philadelphia, came home and said “yous” to me in the course of conversation, you can imagine my ire. It was the only time that happened! For like my parents, I swiftly and decisively corrected her. Although she may be a native Philadelphian, I was not about to let her pick up such sloppy and insipid speech habit. And then and there I became my parents and understood why they so determinedly corrected how we spoke. I may not actually be intelligent, but at the very least I can form a competent sentence and not sound unintelligent.
(ps – to all the yous-loving Philadelphians I know, I still love you, I just wish you wouldn’t say it so much)