Chapter 19

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Dear Amy,

I am fully aware that women don't like it when a man appears to be paying attention to them. I get that. Don't worry, nothing like that is happening here.

But you said that you wanted to get a handle on your grammatical lapses, and I think that that's a topic worthy of contemplation. What you read here will probably appear as a blog entry, among other contemplations, so don't take it too personally.

We are Americans. We are inclusive. That's what we Americans do; we try to relate to each other across our various distinctions.

One method that we use to accomplish that inclusion is to speak down; to deliberately use the common speech patterns of common people, errors and all. We want to get onto a level at which we can all comfortably relate to everyone -- even if it's a low level.

The problem with that approach is the same problem as with all approaches. People think that if some is good, more is better. As time goes by, sooner or later it grows into an evil, like the way our concerns about racism are making people destructively hypersensitive, or the way our concerns about safety are turning people into sissies.

The solution to the grammar problem is that we need to maintain our dignity. We need to maintain our self-respect. We have to fight the American impulse to be "regular fellows". This goes against our American sensibilities, but we have to do it. Toastmasters is all about self-improvement, and self-improvement is impossible if you don't want to rise above other people. Besides, the downward slide of civilization is not a good thing, and any action against it is to be praised.

I think I'm hearing a little of that American self-effacement in your speech, and I think that it engenders some of the grammatical drops that you are fighting. If I'm full of baloney, go ahead and disregard me. But I do lapse into language descension myself, others surely do, and maybe that's some of what you're doing too.


Uncle Al