Poor, sloppy speech

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ONE often hears parents complain that their adolescent children seem to talk only in grunts.

I’ve even heard it said that the human race appears to be reverting in speech to cave-man level, but clearly this cannot be true, since primitive societies retain the language of their forebears.

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Well, what do we have in modern society that they don’t? The frenetic pace of city life perhaps, or could it be our almost pathological reliance on technology?

Psychologists often condemn the habit some people have of using television to keep their children amused; the busy mother plopping her infant down before the TV while she gets on with the house-keeping work.

I knew a family who regularly did this with all three of their children, and then wondered why the youngsters weren’t making normal speech progress.

With the father being a successful businessman and the mother a nurse and midwife, they seldom found time to converse with their children. The middle boy spoke only in the tones of animated cartoon characters, whilst the youngest copied the speech of Barney, a purple stuffed-toy dinosaur!

Happily, parents like those are fairly rare, but even so, in most families the children still develop many of their speech patterns from radio and television, and from which, unfortunately, they soak up some truly damaging habits.

I was born well within the sound of Bow Bells, and still retain my cockney accent, softened a little with the passing of the years, but some of the things I hear on television make me cringe.

For example: ‘Man United v Man City’. I asked my very young grandson if he knew where these football teams were from, and he said, “Well, they’re both from Man, aren’t they?” As for the ‘v’, even many adults have no idea that it’s a lazy contraction of ‘versus’.

On Countdown, the popular afternoon TV programme, the girl who took over from Carol Vorderman, when explaining a number-game solution, habitually says, “..then if you times them together…” Apparently, she doesn’t know the word ‘multiply’. Another too-frequent example from television is the presenter who, when informing us about the programmes to be shown later, will say: “..and on ‘Haitch Dee’” when the correct pronunciation is ‘Aitch Dee’.

Is it so surprising then, that many people, adults as well as children,, through being exposed to this, say ‘Haitch’ when they mean ‘Aitch’? I tried to explain this to another of my grandchildren, and he was astonished and disbelieving. “Are you telling me I’m not supposed to say ‘haitch’?” He shook his head. “Sorry Granddad, but you’re wrong. That’s how it’s pronounced on the telly.” I went on to explain that ‘H’ is the only letter in our alphabet that has a spelling of its own, ‘Aitch’, but I don’t think he believes me even now.

Then of course, there are the pop songs, the one that really makes me wince having the words: “We don’ need no ejoocashun, we don’ want no fought control.” Double negatives, awful pronunciation, and the mangling of simple grammar – ‘real’ (adjective) used in place of ‘really’ (adverb).

These are ugly, unnecessary faults impressed daily upon the minds of young people, and once stuck, almost impossible to dislodge.

I could go on, but like, that’s enough like, for now, innit.  Right?

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