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Drawing the line

Posted by Lotg on October 20, 2003

In Reply to: "Well, duh!" - informal linguistic accuracy posted by Anders on October 20, 2003

: Word Camel's thread "Formal vs. informal speech," cf. below, or, more specifically, the article to which it links, got me thinking. (Enough to start a new thread, I hope.)
: Informal speech can be spot-on. You see that in sitcoms in particular. Think of Phoebe (from Friends) saying "Well, duh!" I guess here the major comic effect derives from the irony of a simpleton, i.e. Phoebe, implying that someone is obviously stupid. That is, you laugh as Phoebe shows herself to be not only a dumb blonde, but an arrogant dumb blonde. (It's not that I dislike her; such is her character.)

: My favorite show is Will & Grace, though. I love it for its double entendres and fast pace. I can't find any examples off the top of my head that supports my argument. However, the fact remains that there's nothing wrong with, or inaccurate about, informal language. If one restricts oneself to it, leaving out formal language, that's degrading, needless to say. But so is leaving out colloquialisms and slang, I believe, as there are things you can't put into formal language. Let us go with Frazier, another show I love, as it has both - and forever mocks the snobbish aspirations, linguistic and otherwise, of the Crane brothers.
: Cheers
: Anders

::: I'm curious to know where people think the line should be drawn between informal speech, dialectic speech and poor speech and grammar.

I recall years ago, a boxer, Jeff Fenech I think (I may have the wrong man, so don't quote me here), did an advertisement in which he said 'somethink'. The advertisers altered the ad so that it sounded as though Jeff said 'something'. Jeff saw the ad and realised that it had been changed and threatened to sue if they didn't change it back (he won by-the-way). His argument was, that they hired Jeff Fenech, so they'd take him warts and all or not at all. He said that where he grew up, that was how people spoke, he knew no other way and he wasn't ashamed of his upbringing. It sparked quite a discussion among the 'experts' about what constituted poor speech and grammar and what constituted an accent or dialect.

I'm often corrected by people when I pronounce 'castle' as 'castle' and not 'cahstle'. I find that offensive. I was raised in country Victoria where we didn't stretch the a's in words. So we said 'plant' not 'plahnt', etc. In NSW, there are mixed pronunciations of short and long a's. Castle has a long a, yet plant a short one. In SA and WA they seem to stretch all the a's, but to my ear, with their accent, they clip their vowels. This is an accent, not a mispronunciation, but could be construed as a mispronunciation.

I pronounce a lot of other things differently and have a lot of different terms to city bred people, and I consider it ignorant of them to correct me (as does sometimes happen), just because they were raised in a different environment, where words and terms are said and pronounced differently. By city terms, I speak in many more colloquialisms. In fact I often deliver whole sentences constructed in slang. But that's where I come from. And in doing so, some of this can be grammatically incorrect, but colloquially appropriate.

So where do we draw the line between local jargon, who we are, and correct speech and grammar. I think the world would be very dull indeed if we all strictly followed the rules. Although, I can't deny I often cringe when I hear those rules broken.

So what's the answer? Is there an answer?