I don't know...

Posted by Word Camel on March 10, 2005

In Reply to: Do good vs Do well posted by Bob on March 10, 2005

: : In the UK we often believe that praise in the US can be described as 'he done good'. Whether this is true or not, some football managers mimic this and describe a player who's had a fine game by saying 'the boy's done good'. However, the great majority of UK English speakers would say 'the boy's done well', since there is a fundamental difference between the two expressions. 'Do well' is to excell at a task. 'Do good' is to perform some worthwhile action, such as a charitable act.
: : So, is our UK perception of US 'good' correct? If so, how is the charitable meaning of 'good' expressed?

: What you've observed is the classic American streak of anti-intellectualism, anti-snobbism, anti-elitism. If reminded, the coach would likely acknowledge that he knows the rules of grammar and usage, but doesn't care to be fenced in by them. Many Americans regard correct speech as effeminate, elitist, fussy, uptight, and suspicious. We're agin' it. In rural areas, good grammar is Big City Pretension. In the South, it's Yankee snobbery, and likely to get you accused of being high-falutin' or forgetting your roots. If you're black, you'll be accused of being Not Black Enough if you speak Standard American dialect. If you're from Texas, and stumble over words, you'll be regarded as a good ol' boy, the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with, a "plain-speking" fellow, and not be thought of as a moron at all.

I'm struck by how rarely, if ever, "well" is used instead of "good". I believe many people here don't know the grammar. I hear it all the time among well educated "east-coast" types. This may stem from anti-intellectualism which shapes the way we educate students. It may have started as an affectation, but I genuinely don't believe most Americans think the two are interchangable.