"I seen it this morning"

“I seen it this morning” I hear that all the time plus other common ungrammatical usages. (I won’t even start on spelling and punctuation such as it’s, its, your, you’re, etc.) Professor Higgins lamented, “Why can’t the English learn to speak?” So why can’t Americans learn proper grammar?

Is it really that difficult to learn your native language correctly? Do Russian, Chinese, French, etc. speakers also have grammar issues?

Probably no more then we do. :slight_smile:

But seriously, I think chatroom grammar is going to create new acceptable spellings for certain words. aight?

d00d i hope ur not rite about that, cuz this lookz stoopid.

In my experience, certainly many Spanish speakers do. Panamanian Spanish can be awful.

Agreed, but I have on occasion used the word “stoopid” when a particularly goofy type of stupidity was involved. The word seems useful to me for that reason alone.

Use of the past participle for the past tense (“I seen it” or “I drunk a whole bottle”) has a longstanding history in substandard colloquial speech. (I have a standard monologue on the idea that, while descriptive grammar is proper, prescriptive grammar is actually a form of descriptivism – it defines the appropriate ways to construct sentences and use words among a given set of users.)

While we’re on the hijack about contemporay teen slang, though, let me add that my wife and I use “cool” in the original 70s sense as a generic approbation, and “kewl” (pronounced with an emphatic EEW! in the middle) as a means of mocking that which is considered particularly “in” at the moment and won’t be in six months or so.

I will often times use things like, “How you do dat?” in both written and spoken conversations for humorous relief.

Are you sure this belongs in GQ and not MPSIMS?
Nevertheless, I’ll add my pet peeves.
“I could care less” - not a grammar error but a logic error.
If you could care less about something then you must have some concern for it to begin with. I’m sure most people could care less about their houses, cars, etc.

How come people don’t speak in the past tense anymore? Want an example?
A person describing an event from 5 years ago. “So I go to my boss and ask him for a raise. He says I don’t deserve a raise. Then I tell him I quit”.
That style of speaking has become commonplace in the last couple of years.

I have always assumed that the wordsas if are understood to be preceeding that statement. “As if I could care less” means that the speaker couldn’t care less.

As we’ve discussed on this board before, grammar is descriptive, not prescriptive. This means that the “rules” of grammar describe a certain usage. The rules don’t pre-date the usage. Consequently, what you often are referring to when you talk about “proper grammar” is the description of the usage of what is variously referred to as “The English of wider usage,” or “Standard English.” This is, however, only written and spoken in certain places - probably in an overall minority of places and circumstances. The language grows, shrinks, and changes with time. Punctuation, structure, spelling, and the like are all in the process of evolving. Talk about a departure from common usage, or from standard English, a colloquialism, etc., but be careful about talking about a violation of the rules.

My theory is that is started out as “I couldn’t care less”, but the “n’t” syllable just disappeared after while.

My father and brother are guilty of having “seen” things that I “saw”. I simply do not bother to correct them. I do sometimes wonder where I learnt the correct form and why my brother missed out on it. So far I’ve never caught Mum’s take on it, so I’m guessing she’s a “saw” or it would catch my attention and bother me the way it does when my father and brother say it. Now wouldn’t you think that we’d have picked up the grammar of the parent we’re closest to? Both of us seem to have gone with the parents we’re less close to.

Regarding the past tense as present, what’s the problem? It’s a narrative. One time long ago, I was in the Army (flashback type of transition on the screen): I go to my sergeant, and I tell him, “hey dude, you suck!” He gets angry, so he tells me, “You can’t speak like that to me! Drop and give me 20 [pushups]!”

Other languages do have the same problem, at least in Spanish. Most of the problems I see are spelling, though. I’m not the best Spanish speller, but I usually know when to use “b” or “v,” at least on the simple words. The more illiterate Mexicans (in my experience, they’re Mexicans) don’t distinguish.

They also invent words: “lamber” instead of “lamer.” But that could be pronuciation; I don’t really know if they try writing like that.

Whenever I hear someone say “seen” instead of “saw,” I just think they never passed third grade. On the other hand, I work with engineers (invariably black), that despite all they know, still say “axed” instead of asked. These are people that presumably achieved at least four years of college education.

In England, people always say “I couldn’t care less”, which makes sense.

There have been several posts in various places about this sort of thing recently. The one I despise most is definately.

Who defined that standard you’re gauging against there? And who put them in charge of the language?

‘I seen it’ has a very common usage in Scottish dialects, equally longstanding. I don’t see how it can therefore be ‘substandard’. Anyone who likes to think so are guilty of nothing less than linguistic snobbery. “The way I leant to speak is correct, and the way you learnt is not. That makes me smarter.”

Being an engineer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good with English; I’ve known engineers (white, if that matters) who never read books and whose writing appeared to be the work of dull children.

“Substandard” is not used as a value judgment but as a definition of usage there – “standard English” has certain grammatical and syntactic structures that are the commonly accepted “correct” ways to say things. Colloquial English allows a greater freedom in expression than “standard English” – it’s purely descriptive.

To say that “‘I seen them’ is a violation of the rules of standard English grammar, but a common substandard usage” is being purely descriptive – it’s not prescribing that all persons in all walks of life should adhere to the “rules of proper English” but recognizing that such rules do exist and are adhered to by many English users, as the described grammar and syntax of “standard English.” A two-year-old saying “Me wanna go park” is violating “the rules of standard English” but constructing a clear and coherent sentence about his wishes that is coherent to anyone with normal familiarity with English speech. (At least if one recognizes that “park” is an elision for “to the park” and not a verb implying that the child is romantically precocious! ;))

Sorry, no it isn’t.

“Substandard” means below standard. It means defective. Unacceptable. Not ‘proper’. If you wished to not make a value judgement you would say, if you must, ‘non-standard’.

And “commonly accepted correct” by whom? You can’t escape the fact that you are arbitarily declaring one way of speaking ‘standard’, and another not when there are no such definitions.

Ah, now I see where you are mistaken. You think that what you define as “Colloquial English”, as demonstrated in the OP, is some sort of easy-osy, do what you like, free for all. People say “I seen it” because they don’t have to follow the rules. They’re allowed ‘greater freedom’ from the restrictive “standard English”.

Unfortunately, what you call Colloquial English has a set of rules that are just as exacting as any supposed “standard”. It doesn’t matter what dialect you speak, if you go your own way and mix and match your grammer to suit yourself, people are going to think you strange. Because there are very precise rules, they are just different to what you personally may be used to and what you would define as ‘standard’.

Futile Gesture
Great !!! I’m a staunch believer in standardization myself.


Not grammatical errors, and I guess these wouldn’t even be considered mis-pronunciations, are words such as nuclear (NOO-KLEE-AR) - sorry it is not NUKE-YOU-LAR. What would that error be called? As I said it is not a mis-pronunciation such as calling a faux pas a “fox pass”.

A seldom-used word that also falls into this category is elephantiasis whereby the majority of people call it elephantitis. I have even heard Peter Jennings make this mistake. Granted maybe I’m being excessively nit-picking here, but when you get paid an outrageous salary just to read words from a teleprompter, you would expect those words to be spoken properly.

As for the importance of all this? How much leeway can you allow in speech before the results become catastrophic? Hmmm this bottle says ‘methyl alcohol’. Must be the same thing as ‘ethyl alcohol’ right?