Author: Arthur E. Rowse
Pub: 2011; Rowman & Littlefield
Genre: non fiction, linguistics
Etc: shout out to the peeps of NetGalley & publicist
"S I Hayakawa said: Slang is the poetry of everyday life." (50)
THIS BOOK totally caught my eye whilst browsing through NG a couple of months ago. Seriously. It was, like, written for ME to READ. Essentially, Amglish, is the head on collision of American slang (like.oh.my.god.) and Proper English. Uh hello?! Have you not heard me talk.
Okay, so you probably haven't and will just have to trust me on this. I might be the antithesis of Proper English teacher. I've been known to walk into my classroom and great the students with: what up my peeps. (They both laugh with me AND at me - *headshake* 7th graders). Also, if I have a side thought, I segue into it with a "BTW" in mini lectures.
Sure, sure, I know PROPER English. And I absolutely teach PROPER English. But I love language. I love how fluid language is. I love how words are only as powerful as we allow them to be. I love that POWER.
This book was a fantastic read. Rowse shares moments in educational history that sorta allowed for Amglish to grow. Like, when NCTE said hey let the kids write however they want to write; it's a form of expression. what they're saying is much more important than how they say it. Didja know that? I sure didn't. ["In 1974 that students have the right to speak and write virtually any way they want - whether in Spanglish, Ebonics, Valspeak, or Geekish - and teachers should respect that. (40)]
And how THEN there was this big COVER UP because guess what? When you allow students to write however they feel and turn it in as substance without knowing the basic rules that they're breaking it's impossible to get them to differentiate between proper and improper. ["the steady relaxation of formal language standards may have had an effect over the years on test results from the College Board's annual Scholastic Aptitude Test for verbal skills. But the Board has done its best to cover up the actual scores." (44) and "But the scores actually went down. The 2010 score does not show what happened in 1994, when the total had plummeted from 478 in 1963 to 419. At that point, the Board figured out how to make things look better. It added 80 points to the scores. It explained that the test needed to be 'recentered' to reflect a study indicating that the decline was largely due to an influx of poor blacks and Hispancis during those years." (45)]
But there's much more than that debate. Let's talk about dirty words. "Even the f-word, which used to be the best attention getter, seems to be fading. To describe a sunset with it, for example, is apparently no longer considered hilarious. And when Vice President Dick Cheney publicly told Senator Patrick Leahey of Vermont to "go f yourself", hardly anybody was surprised or shocked. (70)"
And you know, it's pretty true. Think about what's on the tele during prime time! Man, I know foul language doesn't offend me at all but the times are a'changin. There's no way some of these things would have been heard in 80's while I was growing up. Even the daytime game shows are risque. Have you seen Family Feud lately? Every episode I've seen on break made mention of sexytimes.
STILL there's more to this book than the above discussions. Let's talk about America(tm)...more specifically the English language and how we've taken over the world. And I'm only half playing here. There's a large portion devoted to what does the mixture of our language and other country's language look like. This was so much fun. For example: "Koreans also like to shorten long words in ways that even Americans themselves might envy. For example, an office-hotel complex boils down to officetel, a word processor becomes wo-pro, and a digital camera becomes di-ca. Koreans are especially clever at fabricating words with English letters such as skinship, which means physical contact between two or more people that is not necessarily sexual" (195)
Hmmmm....what else? The debate about Huck Finn? Yeah, that's mentioned: "but the comedy central's Stephen Colbert supported the idea of whitwashing American history and suggested that the job had only begun. "It's great to have the n-word out of Huckleberry Finn. Now get to work on the Moby D-word." (79)\
Finally, my last bit of coolness: "Whitman's love of slang led to a pioneering magazine article entitled 'Slang in America'" (77)
I cannot stress how brain fodder this book offered. I wished I was in college and this was a book used in a class. So many great discussions to be had.