I spend a lot of time thinking about words and the way people use them. I’ve had the privilege of traveling to a number of different countries, and many of the States. It fascinates me to listen to the way people talk in each different place. From State to State, you might expect that the biggest differences would be in pronunciation, but that isn’t always true. I had a friend from Texas who constantly used “whenever” in place of “when,” which confused me for awhile until I got used to it.
“Whenever you were 12, did you watch that TV show?”
Well, I was only 12 once, and plan for it to stay that way, but yes. When I was 12, I did watch that show.
I’ve known people from Iowa who consistently left “to be” out of sentences that really should have contained them.
“Oh man, have you smelled this couch? It needs washed.”
I’m generally not opposed to these things, since I subscribe to the philosophy that language should evolve. But sometimes, when I’m listening to people talk, I forget that philosophy and just get annoyed.
The most recent oddity I’ve noticed is the loss of the letter “g” on the end of words that end with “ng.” Two examples: “strong” and “bring.” When pronounced by several people I’ve recently kept company with, these words wind up being pronounced “stron” and “breen.” It makes perfect sense when you hear it, there is no confusion of meaning, but it gives me pause to wonder if that is a local dialect. Do all South Dakotans speak this way and I’ve just never noticed before? Does it have more to do with families? Do I speak that way?
When I mentioned this to my husband, he pointed out that it was bound to happen sooner or later. After all, people have been lazy about “g” on the end of verbs for a long time. “Hey, how’s it comin’?” “Whatcha doin’?” “Where’s he goin’?”
It goes with the “We done that” and “we seen that” phenomenon, I suppose.
So while I say I’m philosophically okay with the morphing of the English language, in reality I’m probably lying to myself. For every “breen” or “nucular” or “I’d’ve went” I hear, I can’t help but heave a sigh. Too much time listening to elitist language rhetoric in France, I guess.