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Elegance Lost

It's true that English is a complex language, full of many
conundrums. Between homonyms, synonyms and slang,
our inherited verbage baffles many of other lands.

Yet, it can also be quite elegant.

A centuries old mishmash of several European, Celtic and
British tongues, English has prevailed around the globe.
Through warfare, colonialism and business, it has taken
hold almost everywhere civilization has gone.

It's not uncommon to hear people from exotic lands speaking
perfect English.

Here on the homefront in the USA, though, the language is
taking a brutal beating.

It's not geting the lead pipe treatment in the schools- teachers
are trying hard and the resurgence of 'phonics' has helped

It's not taking a pummeling in literature, either. Authors still write
and editors still edit.

It's not even the daily pounding of common use. I'm not talking
about frequently mispoken words like 'nucular' and 'disorientated'.

The blogoshere? Web comments? Don't get me started.

There is a root problem to the 'de-regulation' of language.

It's in the media.

The real elegance of English is in it's economy of statement.
Contractions add a great deal of facility to the language, but
the true beauty of English comes out in our verbs- specifically
our past tense verbs.

We have this wonderful way of smoothing out a sentence by
using past tense versions many verbs.

Newpapers, magazines and TV news and documentarians
have been systematically dumping past tense verbs from
the language for over a decade now.

I have seen 'dived' instead of 'dove'. 'Lighted' instead of 'lit'
'Leaded' rather than 'led'.

As in "he lighted the fuse, dived into the water and leaded the escape"

Give me a break.

The biggest and most frequent offender- 'pleaded'.

Since crime and it's judicial proceedings are a mainstay of
news and documentary coverage, the word 'plead' is in
constant use, unfortunately, mostly in past tense, as we're
usually talking about things that have already happened.

Everyday, hundreds of newspapers, TV reporters and hosts
chirp out the phrase 'pleaded' not guilty.

Technically it means the right thing, which is good enough
for the producers, so go away.

Ah, but there is an aspect of this that has gone unnoticed.

The right way to say it, of course, is 'pled' not guilty. This
nifty little word has been crafted over the ages to basically
represent the legal use of 'plead' in past tense over the
demonstrative 'pleaded'.

Both words have their uses. A proper use of both would be;
'The victim was said to have pleaded for his life. The killer
pled not guilty at arraignment'.

But, like all the other past tense verbs, this elegant little syllable
has been banished to the underworld, poking it's head up
occasionally, by the graces of the BBC.

America's most reknowned journalists and writers have abandoned
an aspect of the language that kid's are still learning in school.
I can only imagine the difficulties added to our teachers workload
by this phenomenon.

Our media is the benchmark for the use of the language. If it
doesn't reflect the full capabilities of the language, it is doing
it a disservice.

The biggest names should be the best orators.

Don't dumb us down. Restore the elegance.

There, I've pled my case.

copyright 2000 Pegwood Arts all rights reserved 

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