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NPR - degradation of language & music

katlaughing 29 Oct 03 - 03:51 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Oct 03 - 05:00 PM
katlaughing 29 Oct 03 - 06:29 PM
Joybell 29 Oct 03 - 07:09 PM
artbrooks 29 Oct 03 - 07:16 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Oct 03 - 08:14 PM
Bobert 29 Oct 03 - 08:24 PM
Gloredhel 29 Oct 03 - 08:26 PM
Joybell 29 Oct 03 - 08:31 PM
Bobert 29 Oct 03 - 08:43 PM
GUEST,Q 29 Oct 03 - 08:47 PM
Uncle_DaveO 29 Oct 03 - 08:55 PM
freightdawg 29 Oct 03 - 09:20 PM
katlaughing 29 Oct 03 - 10:04 PM
NicoleC 29 Oct 03 - 10:05 PM
mack/misophist 29 Oct 03 - 10:30 PM
katlaughing 29 Oct 03 - 10:47 PM
Amos 29 Oct 03 - 10:51 PM
GUEST 29 Oct 03 - 10:52 PM
LadyJean 30 Oct 03 - 12:35 AM
GUEST,Q 30 Oct 03 - 12:46 AM
The Fooles Troupe 30 Oct 03 - 01:49 AM
Uncle_DaveO 30 Oct 03 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,MMario 30 Oct 03 - 10:53 AM
katlaughing 30 Oct 03 - 11:07 AM
Steve Parkes 30 Oct 03 - 11:37 AM
mack/misophist 30 Oct 03 - 02:29 PM
Joybell 30 Oct 03 - 05:16 PM
freightdawg 30 Oct 03 - 06:44 PM
katlaughing 30 Oct 03 - 06:55 PM
Bill D 30 Oct 03 - 07:48 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Oct 03 - 08:06 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Oct 03 - 08:41 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Oct 03 - 08:53 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 30 Oct 03 - 09:45 PM
GUEST 30 Oct 03 - 09:53 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 30 Oct 03 - 10:02 PM
Bill D 31 Oct 03 - 01:11 AM
Wilfried Schaum 31 Oct 03 - 02:15 AM
katlaughing 31 Oct 03 - 03:01 AM
Steve Parkes 31 Oct 03 - 04:20 AM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Oct 03 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,MMario 31 Oct 03 - 01:25 PM
Richard Bridge 31 Oct 03 - 01:33 PM
Nerd 31 Oct 03 - 04:36 PM
M.Ted 31 Oct 03 - 05:21 PM
katlaughing 31 Oct 03 - 05:32 PM
GUEST,Uncle DaveO 31 Oct 03 - 06:30 PM
katlaughing 31 Oct 03 - 07:08 PM
Peace 02 Nov 03 - 08:03 AM
Thomas the Rhymer 02 Nov 03 - 12:57 PM
Peace 02 Nov 03 - 05:40 PM
s&r 02 Nov 03 - 05:46 PM
GUEST 02 Nov 03 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,McGrath of Harlow 02 Nov 03 - 06:05 PM
Uncle_DaveO 02 Nov 03 - 09:29 PM
katlaughing 02 Nov 03 - 10:16 PM
Steve Parkes 03 Nov 03 - 07:00 AM
M.Ted 03 Nov 03 - 03:58 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Nov 03 - 04:15 PM
Steve Parkes 04 Nov 03 - 04:21 AM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Nov 03 - 07:14 AM
Peace 05 Nov 03 - 06:19 PM
katlaughing 06 Nov 03 - 12:31 AM
Steve Parkes 06 Nov 03 - 04:13 AM
Uncle_DaveO 06 Nov 03 - 09:40 AM
JennyO 06 Nov 03 - 10:27 AM
Peace 06 Nov 03 - 10:32 AM
katlaughing 06 Nov 03 - 11:05 AM
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Subject: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 03:51 PM

I found this discussion on NPR, today, very interesting. It was also frustrating because I found myself talking back to them, telling them how much we care about the language and the music, here at the Mudcat!:-) One of the examples they used for differences in music diction, etc. was Fred Astaire and Tom Waits.

Anyway, here's the blurb with a link so that you may listen and see what you think:

In his latest dispatch from the front lines of American culture, John McWhorter reports that the glory of the English language has been lost as speech surrenders to talk. Join host Neal Conan to talk about "the degradation of language and music and why we should, like, care."

Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care(scroll down) (Gotham Books 2003) by John McWhorter, Associate Professor of Linguistics at University of California, Berkeley, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 05:00 PM

OK, Kat, I will act the Devil's advocate on language. I take the stand that- Many who post at Mudcat don't care pediddle about language.
Look at the recent thread on "tarry."
Posts attempting to define the word start with "I've heard," "I think," "Couldn't find an entry in the dictionary;" give definitions off the top of the head without reference; confuse the word sought with other words; make use of hoked-up internet or pop culture dictionaries, and know nothing of the history and development of their language.
Why don't people at least have the minimum- Oxford Concise of Webster's Collegiate? (Many out there, I fear, can't understand the make-up of the entries or can't put them in context)

Music is a complex question. I deplore the lack of music education in the schools, which has led to adulation for lowest common denominator performers, e. g. Shamia Train and Barth Rooks, but there also are good musicians out there, even though they are not found in the popular media.

I would give Mudcatters high marks on musical knowledge, but they are not typical of the general public.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 06:29 PM

Thanks for your take, Q, but I think it's more that we have a good command, but choose not to get too formal about it. Though, we do have our pedants, more than I think the average web-forum does. Also, from what I hear, we are pretty wordy compared to most.

I think there is a vast difference between being able to write well, with proper grammar, etc. and choosing to write in a more carefree way. I've seen stuff on here which takes my breath away from poeple who then post in a vernacular so completely off-kilter there's no comparison.

The program is well worth listening to, imo.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Joybell
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 07:09 PM

I agree Kat, when someone says "I think that.." or "I wonder if..." at least you know where the information came from. The thought can then be explored by poets, pedants, serious thinkers, comedians and devil's advocates. Before a thread dies there is a wealth of information within it as well as amazing creative writing. The one thing that seems to be apparent is that Mudcatters do, on the whole, have a real love of the language.
I'm looking forward to this thread's development.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: artbrooks
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 07:16 PM

Regretably, I could not open the audio link.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 08:14 PM

So much of the "I think" conveys fakelore. The problem is that uncritical readers pass it on as fact. The known facts must be checked before one is entitled to put forth one's "I think."
Where language is concerned, Dictionaries and word usage manuals are the base. If it is made clear that the speculation carries on from there, fine.

I couldn't open an audio link either.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Bobert
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 08:24 PM

More regretably, I did open it! And what do you think I heard? Nuthin' about no deregulation of language... Jus' a bunch of tree huggin' commie crap 'bout some solar flair... Like, Iz as intersted in tres as much as the next hillbilly, but I ain't into huggin' no sun. Nope, ain't gonna' happen... I'll hug my couzin Rufus's wife, Rether May, who ain't ever actaully been in or withina mile of a bath tub, but I ain't gonna hug no sun. Period. End of negotiations...

Now, as fir deregulatin' the English language.... Ahhh, well it's about time... Wat too many words in it. You all ever pick up one of these Websters? Like 3 pounds of words. Used to be two. Heck, I could get along real nicely with just a fcouple ounces myself...

But when you get these danged Repubs in the first thig they wanta do is gop and deregulate every thing that can make a buck fir one of their buddies (wgho just happened to contribute to their campaigns). I say, let them folks waller with the rest of us who never made up no words important to make Webster. Heck, them folkx is out gallivantin' 'round collectin' reyaltiis checks from Mr. Webster fir us using their words and we are splittin' hot dogs three ways... I mean, you call this fair?

No! Its a danged shame is waht it is... Heck with 'em. Let 'em get jobs like real folks....

No to deregulation of language and yes to, ahhhh, legalized pot, free music and plaid shirts...

That's my take on it and until anyone comes forth woith photographic everdince that I got Webster blood in my famlee, I stickin' to it...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Gloredhel
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 08:26 PM

The audio link does indeed seem to be faulty. 3 hours about the solar flare. It isn't the slightest bit interesting to me.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Joybell
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 08:31 PM

Bobert, I told you we needed you here! Didn't I tell you? My dear friend 568 Koala stamps and a Golden Dunart to you Sir.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Bobert
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 08:43 PM

You don't need me as much as you need some anit-trust attorney, Bellzer.... The danged language is some kind o' monopoly... An' someones' gettin' rich off it.... I'll guarenteeee it! I mean, real rich!

Iz fri keepin' the regerlations on it as long as we can 'er next thing ya know we'll be gettin monthy bills fir, ahhhhh.... talkin'!!!!

Think about it!!! You'll see 'zactly what I mean!!!

It's all part of the right winged conspiracy!!!

Bobert


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 08:47 PM

Hey, Bobert, that solar flare is heading your way, bringing you a hug from the sun, since you won't go to it.
I'm with you on deregulation (won't make me no money) but I stand four-square on old Noah Webster (may he rest in peace!) putting more regulation into the American language. You heard those rappers (or is it crappers?).


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 08:55 PM

I'm really very disappointed not to be able to hear this. John McWhorter is a wonderful writer on language, the author (among others) of The Power of Babel, a book about HOW and WHY languages develop, and how they relate to each other. One of his points (a little overstated, but it makes itself clear in context) is that "There ARE no languages. It's ALL dialects!" Vastly entertaining writing, as well as being informative. He clearly enjoys staking out a provocative, if not confrontational, position.

Prof. McWhorter is (I have to say this in order to give what follows its context) a black man. Although I don't think he'd use those words. But he was the center of a great deal of controversy a year or two ago, when he wrote a book with the premise that affirmative action is not only unconstitutional and wrong but harmful to the black/Negro/African-American race. As might be expected, he was promptly attacked for this from the liberal end of things, as well as from many, many of his own race. On the other hand, I've heard quotes from other very prominent black men that they think he's right. I heard part of an interview with him about that book, and he makes what seems to me a very reasoned and convincing case.

I need to get hold of this book about degradation of language and music.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: freightdawg
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 09:20 PM

Pardon me if I'm splitting hairs here, but is it okay to link language and music together? I would agree that there is an acceptable or approved manner of making words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into stories. But once mastered, these "rules" can be broken to great effect (I think of Ogden Nash or e.e. cummings). But does music have the same rules? Even as much as I dislike certain forms of music, it appears to me that those artists use the same basic rules as the artists I do like, just in a different style or meter or at a volume that is felt more than heard. To say that language degrades to me is to say that people are becoming insensitive to the basic fundamentals of speech and writing. (aside, something the British have accused us Yanks of doing for years and years). But how does music degrade in the same manner? I must admit I was unable to open the link as well, maybe he makes that point very clear. If so, I apologise. My observation with the general, overall music scene is that individuality and true creativity are being smothered in the name of commercialism. This is not the case in the smaller arenas where creativity is fostered, but once you "make it big" you have to become just like everyone else. There just are not that many Johnny Cash's out there who are willing to stand up to the mega-super-monolithic companies.

Cheers to the many Mudcatters who make Kat's comments correct: those who care deeply about the language of music, and the flowing music of both written and vocalized language.

Freightdawg


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 10:04 PM

Sorry about the link, but it works for me. Ya haf ta scrole down real fer a'for ya see it.:-) This should work if you past it in your Real Audio Player:

http://www.npr.org/dmg/dmg.php?prgCode=TOTN&showDate=29-Oct-2003&segNum=2&NPRMediaPref=RM

If they take it off of that page, one may find it in the archives for Talk of the Nation, 29 Oct. 2003.

Interesting comments, so far, folks,

kat


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: NicoleC
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 10:05 PM

Neither music nor English is a dead and unchanging language. To expect it to linger, unchanged, to the forms of ones youth is folly. One might as well expect modern day Americans to comprehend Old English -- or Middle English, for that matter. Heck, one can't even get most people to understand Shakespeare.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: mack/misophist
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 10:30 PM

I suspect scholars in Shakespeare's day deplored and denounced his neologisms. The change we're going through today is, I admit, a little intense. For the first time in history, that I know of, popular music is in the hands of people who don't give a rat's ass about language or nuance.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 10:47 PM

I hope some of you will be able to listen to this now that I've added the correct link. There are a few reviews of it Amazon.com one of which reads:

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly

"Linguist and show-tune aficionado McWhorter (Losing the Race) explores why American language and music are no longer crafted, honored or even well-regarded means of expression. The expected social formality of an earlier era, he argues, was eroded by the individualistic, multicultural values of the 1960s. The result: we talk rather than lecture, and we choose 50 Cent over Mahler.

"By unearthing Victorian-era speeches, early 20th-century newspapers and presidential addresses from the family Bush, McWhorter shows just how American English has, over time, taken on a permanent casual Friday uniform. McWhorter, who is African-American, suggests that hip-hop, spoken-word poetry and black English are the current defining modes of expression, with their fight-the-power messages of distrusting authority and "keeping it real."

"But, he notes, in contrast to the gentle, erudite oratories of the past, "[p]oetry that shouts can only be a sideshow. It cannot inspire a nation." Laden with contemporary pop culture references and humorous asides, this is an entertaining polemic that brings linguistics to the people, while lamenting the populist mentality that has made being cool more critical than being articulate."

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Amos
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 10:51 PM

Shakespeare's neologisms are not parallel to those of rap. His were constructive and evolved against an aesthetic that added insight; the degradation of beauty and the exaltation of hate does not do that.

A


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Oct 03 - 10:52 PM

mollycoddle
obfustication
smarmy
quark
antihistimine
constant velocity joint
dribble
poleaxed
thermal features
heyoka
isenglass
boondoggle
defunct

"throat singing", sean nos, the Sacred Harp, Bartok and Fleck, the MJQ, John Hurt, takseem, skirling,
talking blues, rap.

good night all.


CB


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: LadyJean
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 12:35 AM

I had something to say, but I don't think anything can follow that.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 12:46 AM

Perhaps guest would explain the pertinance of his list- other than it contains unrelated words from the 1300s to the 1900s, some with several meanings, some from foreign languages, some from science. English is an agglomerative and changing language, perhaps that is his point.

Isinglass (not isenglass) is a corruption of Dutch huisenblas and has been used since the 16th c. for translucent gelatins, and since the 18th c. for mica. As a boy I remember it as the sheets of translcent mica used in coalstove doors and lamp housings. A piece was one of a boy's prize possessions.
In Canada, more people would know Quark as a soft cheese than would recognize it as a particle in subatomic physics. I don't know how widespread the food substance is.
Heyoka is a Sioux name for clown (not in our sense but that of a wise fool). Some "new age" and other peculiar people have given it different, incomprehensible meanings.
Mollycoddle was probably from dialect, but it received its current meaning from novels by Thackeray, Napier and others in the 19th c.
Obfuscation developed as a figurative term in the 16th c. but achieved literal meaning (dark) in the 17th c.
Smarmy appeared in popular writing early in the 20th c. but might have come from smalm, to smear.
Antihistamine was coined by medical researchers in 1933.
Constant velocity joint is known to all who work with front wheel drive cars, but the transfer of power at angles goes back a ways- at a guess 19th c.
Dribble has several meanings; the common one (to drop or flow very slowly) is 16th c. In Archery it is 16th c. and in ball games 19th c.
Poleaxed has a long history; soldiers were poleaxing people in the 14th c. or earlier. The other sense, felling animals, is early 18th c.
Thermal was coined by the French scientist Buffon from the Greek root. Applied not to everything from hot springs to thermal underwear.
Boondoggle has several meanings, which may or may not be related. A gadget (19th c), cowboy lingo for fiddling with or making things from small bits of leather (early 20th c.?), socially desirable make-work projects (Roosevelt-depression era projects), which became almost immediately the wasteful projects of governments. The last has prevailed.
Defunct meant dead in the 14th c. and in part still does but it picked up the meaning of no longer in existence in the 1700s.

Yep, a small sample of English.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 01:49 AM

katlaughing - your original post reminds me of the French Attitude to their culture - and their dislike of Americana taking over french Culture.

Robin


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 10:43 AM

Freightdawg questioned, in effect, whether degradation of language and of music could be spoken of in the same breath, because he suggests (if not asserts) that their rules are too different to make them comparable.

Not having heard Prof. McWhorter's interview, nor having read the book, I can't answer Freightdawg's question. But McWhorter clearly must think there is substantial parallel, in the context of the culture. Freightdawg's question would really have to be directed to McWhorter, I guess. I tend to think, given the review-excerpt given above by Kat, that the argument is directed to a negative cultural development as expressed in the degradation in these two fields, more so than a linking of the two fields as such. In other words, the two fields might be as different as you are pleased to consider them (I don't think so), but they are aspects of our culture, and if they are being degraded, it is significant.

Yes, it is arguable that one man's "degradation" is another man's "liberation" of one or another field of expression. But McWhorter says "degradation", and I agree with him.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST,MMario
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 10:53 AM

The known facts must be checked before one is entitled to put forth one's "I think."

c'mon Q! People use "I think" and "I've heard" to in essence say "I have NOT checked the facts." Or they may actually be expressing their opinion. Neither requires facts.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 11:07 AM

Foolestroupe/Robin, not sure what you mean. Are you referring to my words, or the quote I included?

I do wish people would take the time to listen to the interview. :-)

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 11:37 AM

English isn't a language, (I've got my Pedant hat on now [should have said "I have", not "I've got"!]) it's a Creole: it's a bastard child of Old English and Old French. American (Pedant: US) English is what happened to West Country English English when it got isolated for three or four hundred years; it's only since the advent of the radio and the talkies that it's become obvious to us Brits. So anyone who says Americans don't speak correct English is talking out of their (Pedant: his) donkey.

Hat off again ... I often say "I heard" because I think it's good to give provenance to "facts" when possible, but I can never remember where I heard/read/was told. And anyway, you don't have to believe anything I post here! As for the first para, Icant prove it,but you'l find plenty of support for it if you need it.

Steve


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: mack/misophist
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 02:29 PM

Verily hath Steve Parks the right of it. If we all checked our facts before opening our mouths the world would give the impression of serenity. In many cases "I heard/read/believe" is the polite way of telling your audience you have the gospel truth but can't quite cite chapter and verse at the moment.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Joybell
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 05:16 PM

I just thought this up this very moment as I write, just having read the above statements of myself, MMario, Steve Parkes and MM - I think that they/we are spot on. But that's just what I think.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: freightdawg
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 06:44 PM

Thanks again Kat, for encouraging a little more diligence. I punched a few more buttons and finally got to listen to the program. (Now you have to go back to "previous shows.") As I listened two words kept coming to my mind - value and education. We teach our young what we value the most. Apparently all we value now is results, so we teach to the next highest bar and hope our kids can jump over it. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back so that learning will once again be about elevating humanity's spirit and our collective conscience. I also thought it interesting how he linked both musical form and lyrical quality in his discussion on music. Obviously my earlier comments are irrelevent, as he was not speaking of abandonment of rules, but rather of a descent from "high" or more trained and intricate forms of written speech and music, to a more common or "low" form where the emphasis is more on the emotion of the prose and speaker/singer rather than the craft itself. The time frame that he places this shift is really fascinating too - fodder for many, many discussions. All in all, very thought provoking.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 06:55 PM

Thank you, freightdawg!! That's what I meant and you summed it up much better than I. I appreciate that you were able to find it and listen to it and look forward to more discussion.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 07:48 PM

one of the things that is happening these days is that the 'children' we want to educate are, by default, deciding too much about what shall be taught! "oh, man...that's so, like, YESTERDAY! We don't need all that strict grammar stuff anymore. We can express ourselves just fine!"

...and the schools obligingly back off of some of the serious taeching of yesterday, worried that if they insist on LEARNING, the kids will ignore them, so they (the educators) create little games and low-key classes with minimal emphasis on getting your language right. I met with my son's English teacher in the 11th grade several years ago, and was appalled at the curriculum and the teacher's attitude of "laissez faire". He simply did what he was told and could barely use the language himself. Is this a universal problem and attitude? I suppose not, but I have seen precious little GOOD language taught here in Montgomery County, Maryland. They are flat abandoning detail in favor of sugar-coating the studies in hopes that the kids will get a LITTLE of it!

what, me? Cynical? nawwwwwww...


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 08:06 PM

My condemnation of "I think" applied to speculation about the meaning of a word, when the definition is clearly given in dictionaries. It does not apply in discussion of history, origins or other matters on which there is controversy.
If the speculation starts with a base fact and proceeds from there, that is completely acceptable in argument.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 08:41 PM

Opinions are facts. They are facts about the person concerned, and about how they interpret their experience. Dictionaries give meanings, but not necessarily all the meanings, because language is very fluid.

In fact there are two traditional ways of viewing dictionaries. One is that they lay down the law as to what a word means - and that is what it means, until a later dictionary amends it. The other is that they provide snapshots of how words mean at a particular time within a particular society,and perhaps what they meant at other times and places - but that the real determinant of what a word means in actual use lies in the intention of the person using the word. (They can both be useful ways of seeing things, according to what's under discussion.)

That link kat gave didn't come up with the goods for me either. I'd like to have read it. "...speech surrenders to talk". I rather enjoy the game where you take two words which mean almost the same thing, and use whatever distinction you can draw between them as a basis for a theoretical structure.

I think Q misses a crucial,point that kat was making - which is that it is pretty clear that around the Mudcat there is a lot of interest in language as such - what it means, what it doesn't mean, what it can mean. Otherwise we wouldn't have threads like this.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 08:53 PM

Bill D, the only hope for our children is to keep them interested in reading and to encourage them to improve their ability to communicate and use their language. A difficult job considering that they are influenced by their peers. I understand the dramatic increase in private schools devoted to superior goals, and the similar increase in home schooling.

The degradation of language has been going on for many years, although uncommented on for a long time. The levels of proficiency attained by students reaching the college where I worked varied strongly, depending on where they received their high school education. Those of us reading the flood of essays prepared for various courses could almost pinpoint the school systems from which the proficient students graduated (this was in Texas and over 50 years ago).

Music has mostly disappeared except as an elective or after school activity. All I can suggest is, like, you know, get your kids a keyboard, guitar or whatever and teach them or have them taught, starting at kindergarten level or before.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 09:45 PM

WONDERFUL thread Kat Lauging!!!

WELL DONE!

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

One of your most erudite!!!!


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 09:53 PM

I think, therefore... I am! Well, I wish it was that easy...

I believe that language and music are wildly alive and vivid in our age, as well as in those preceeding ours... Sure, the 'friday casual' vocabulary is predominant, and street lingo finds it's way into rap and pop, talk shows encourage simple and emotional outbursts, and newsspeak is obscurely informative and slanted... but mainstream culture has always cultivated a rather low and common denominator...

As we read between the lines, and pursue knoledge and understanding, we find much to be stimulated by, and plenty of new words... It's all there, and more is on it's way as we speak...

I'd be heard saying that our basic intellectual curiosity has been systematically 'not encouraged', mostly (I think) because 'fitting in' these days is almost exclusively based on impatient affectations and appearances... and so... the only mental excercise most of us get is 'jumping to conclusions'... ;^) ttr


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 30 Oct 03 - 10:02 PM

Also,
literacy is increasing daily due
to this written e-mail thing we do...


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 01:11 AM

Q..indeed, keeping the fire of knowlege burning in a few, as in the dark ages, is the real hope. There are always swings of the pendelum....

(BTW...regarding NPR as a guardian of language and stirrer of issues...it was on NPR that I heard the phrase used .." this program was previously pre-recorded. At least they didn't say "previously pre-recorded at an earlier time in the past")


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 02:15 AM

Objection, MMario - even an opinion should be founded upon evidence.

Objection, Steve: As I have read (I've forgotten where) a creole language originates from a pidgin, i.e. a reduced, language. Having learned English language (Her Majesty's Own) for some years at school and practising it abroad more or less often I do not have the impression of a reduced language. It is structured like many other Germanic languages, inserted some Romanic forms (e.g. genitive) and a vast addition of Romanic words, mostly the polysyllables . (I still remember a piece of Ivanhoe, where good old Alderman Ox becomes Beef when entering a Norman court.) Fortunately during its history English dropped a lot of superfluous morphology on its way to an analytic structure, which makes it so easy to learn. In German the process is much slower.

Never forget that languages develop like people and are subject to changes. They must not be degradations, only a change of conventions. And considering the different levels of speech you can't compare apples with pears.

And now an observation which has proved utterly wrong in my opinion:
The average American vocabulary contains 80 words of which 50% may easily be substituted by the word f***. Reading a lot of threads here convinced me that it isn't true.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 03:01 AM

Maybe, Wilfried, but I don't think one can judge the "average American" by what one sees on Mudcat.:-)


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 04:20 AM

Wilfried, maybe I'd have been more correct to say Middle English was a creole, from which Modern English (16th century onwards) developed as a fully-fledged languge. There is some discussion at this website: search for "creole", or scroll down till you find it; there's plenty more on the subject in there, if you have the leisure to find it.

I've noticed that when foreign films (movies) are dubbed into American English, all expletives, even fairly mild ones, are translated as "f*ck"!

I've always been intigued by the notion that many people use "I believe ..." to signify "it is my opinion that ..." giving a spurious weight of factuality to what may be nothing more than conjecture.

I had a friend who used to say "the difference between my opinion and yours is that my opinion is correct and yours isn't"! And it's true: if I think your opinion is correct, I'll start believing that instead; otherwise, I'll carry on believing myself.

Steve


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 01:18 PM

many people use "I believe ..." to signify "it is my opinion that ..." giving a spurious weight of factuality to what may be nothing more than conjecture.

How so? "I believe" is purely a statement of fact about the person saying "I believe"; the same is true of "It is my opinion that". The difference is purely about the degree of commitment implied. It says thing about the factuality of the content of the belief or opinion.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST,MMario
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 01:25 PM

even an opinion should be founded upon evidence

SHOULD be. SHOULD be.

But most aren't.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 01:33 PM

Much as my knee-jerk reaction is that typical language is changing for the worse, my step-son (who did get a first in philosophy so I treat his opinions with respect) argues (if I render it correctly) that "correct" language is language that confirms most closely to the most frequent usage, so, for example, if more people split infinitives (I choose an example in which received usage in England differs from that in America) than otherwise, it is "correct" to split an infinitive.

Is a desire to preserve formalistic use of language, and formalistic musical structures any more meritorious than a desire to preserve rococo architecture?


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Nerd
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 04:36 PM

Steve is wrong, I think, on two counts. One is to say English is not a language but a creole. A creole is a language, just a specific kind of language. So you could say that English is BOTH a language AND a creole.

Second, there is no evidence I know of that Middle English is a creole in the sense he means; i.e. that it developed from a reduced pidgin created when Normans and Saxons needed to communicate with one another. In fact, English retained a lot more of both parent languages than this would imply.

Remember, English remained as the spoken language of most English people through the transition from old to middle English. During that period, words from the imported Norman language got added along with the pre-existing English words. Thus I can say I'm eating food (Saxon) or ingesting nourishment (Norman); the food can be described as pig meat (Saxon) or pork (Norman); after eating I may have to shit (Saxon) or defecate (Norman/Latin); To get to the bathroom I can go down the stairs (Saxon) or descend them (Norman). In English we typically have many ways (several options) for expressing an idea (saying what we think), one of which uses Norman words, the other Saxon. This is not what we see in creoles. Because creoles develop from pidgins, they tend to have impoverished (small) vocabularies rather than enriched (big) ones.

In pidgins, what would happen is the sentence "me eat pig" would mean "I eat pork," "I ate pork," "I have eaten pork," etc. Then the new creole would be built from the skeleton of this pidgin, hence the use of "me" for "I" in many island creoles today. But there is no evidence I know of for this pidgin stage of English in Medieval England.

On the topic more generally: Q, if someone wants to know what Tarry means and I know, why should I haul out my OED, which is very large and heavy and requires a magnifying glass which I misplaced years ago? After all, there are plenty of online dictionaries that people can check. I don't think a reluctance to look up what I already know for someone else who is too lazy means that I don't care about language. Therefore, I think that Mudcatters who really care about language are unlikely to post to that kind of thread. If they do post, it will be with hearsay, not a dictionary entry, but the hearsay is likely to be correct.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: M.Ted
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 05:21 PM

Good comments, Nerd--sounds like you took Gillian Sankoff's class on creole and pidgins at Penn--

Another arguement against Steve's assertion is the fact that pidgins are a common ground created for the purpose trade, and the language used in commerce for three hundred years after the Norman conquest was French, not Norman French, but Parisian French, which was widely taught --in fact, there are surviving grammars that indicating that even before the conquest,French was widely used in commerce--

Also, even though Modern English is rife with latinate words, there are relatively few of them in Middle English, which seems much closer to a Germanic language, such as, say, Old Frisian, which is regarded by some as the nearest related language--


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 05:32 PM

Dave, I think I can record this to my computer and send the audio file to you by email, if you'd like. Just PM me and I'll see what I can do. I think you'd really enjoy hearing it.

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST,Uncle DaveO
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 06:30 PM

Kat, you are a GREAT human being! I'm sending this from another computer, so I can't get to my member area and can't send you a PM with my email address. Howsomever, if you go to My Unfinished Website you will see my email address there.

Thanx.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Oct 03 - 07:08 PM

Takes one to know one, Dave!**bg** I'll see what I can do tomorrow.

Thanks for the link!

kat


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Peace
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 08:03 AM

Let me see here! Uncle Dave said "I can't get to my member area and I can't send you a PM". I will not remark on that.

As for the notion that we are contributing to the fall of civilization as we know it by using language for its most important purpose (communication), I scoff at the idea. I treat it with floccinaucinihilipilification and, I THINK, some scorn. Anyone who uses a dictionary as the final authority on a word's meaning has issues. The spoken language is always 20 years ahead of the written language. In that 20 years, words will appear and stay or appear and disappear. If the prof had addressed the horrible locution, "I seen it," I'd likely be happier than I am at present. The word "c**t" appears in Hamlet. That don't make it right to use. F**k's in most dictionaries. I don't think it's fit to use in the presence of ladies. And in the words of Forrest, "That's all I have to say 'bout that!"


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 12:57 PM

On the other hand, brucie... et too brucie?...

curling and slur-a-ling in yer dictionary dew,
Don't captivate or activate much quite intended new
but agrivates coroborates in certain lack of learning
respecting less untill digress finds pleasure in a spurning

Seriously brucie... the dictionary isn't always 20 years behind the 'cutting edge' of language... occasionally is a more apt expression here imho... When communication implied is achieved with absolute success 100 percent of the time, and across cultural and regional differences, we can leave the most esteemable mister Dictionary in the dusty coffures of history... in the meantime he is a most agreeable social animal, capable of bringing light and understanding to even the darkest little misunderstandings... ttr


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Peace
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 05:40 PM

And on the other other hand, I enjoyed your poem, Thomas.

OK, your point's well taken. But recall the time we had when bad meant good (Michael Jackson?), cool became hot (as in "s/he's cool" in the sixties to "s/he's hot" in the zeros), and 'doh' makes it into the dictionary and the back formation of 'link' as the singular for the cat of the plural name (lynx) doesn't. I agree that dictionaries are not an enemy of language, but they are often not its ultimate arbiter, either.

Good rhyme you wrote, by the way.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: s&r
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 05:46 PM

Language changes. Degradation is a pejoritative term applied by those who don't like the changes.

Most people use several versions of their mother tongue:

1


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 06:04 PM

""I can't get to my member area and I can't send you a PM". "

Oh yes you can, Uncle Dave. You can log on and get access to your Personal Page and send PMs and so on on any computer with Intrnet access. So long as you can remember your Mudcat name and password.

All you have to do is click on membership, and then click on the bit on the registratin opage where it says "If you are already a member, but your information does not appear below, click here."


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: GUEST,McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 06:05 PM

And that GUEST there was me.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 09:29 PM

s&r said: "Most people use several versions of their mother tongue."

Absotively. Posolutely!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 10:16 PM

Degradation does not neccessarily equate good change.

Dave, I am recording it right now. Watch yer email!

Oh, and who said kewl used to mean hot?!**bg**


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 07:00 AM

OK folks, I get the message -- I'll shut up!

Kat, surely "degradation" can only mean change for the worse?

Steve


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: M.Ted
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 03:58 PM

Don't shut up, Steve--you put an idea on the table that got us thinking, which is always worthwhile--while I was away from the computer, and I ended up digging out some samples of Middle English and Old French, and other things to compare, then ended up looking up a few things on the net--All interesting, to me, at least, and nothing that I would have done otherwise--


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 04:15 PM

"...change for the worse" - true, it does tend to get taken as always implying that.

But it shouldn't really - reducing something to a simpler form might make it more useful for some purposes. If you're baking a cake, flour is more useful than grains of wheat. Someone who was a terrible officer, when reduced in rank ("degraded"), might make a first rate soldier. In folk terms an over-ornate and over-long broadsheet ballad might get worn down over the years and give rise to a wonderful song.

We tend not to use the word that way. But we do use the meaning of the word, divorced from its associations, as a process we can view favourably.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 04 Nov 03 - 04:21 AM

Why, thank you, M Ted! I have been known to advance the most outrageous proposals to my friends, just to provoke a bit of intelligent discussion. I don't normally do that here, as the written word can carry a lot more weight than it warrants, and I don't mean to spread misinformation.

Kevin, my handy on-screen dictionary/thesaurus defines "degradation" thus:
1. Changing to a lower state (a less respected state)
2. A low or downcast state
Discuss ...

Steve


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Nov 03 - 07:14 AM

I think my last post did discuss that. Going down, or getting smaller, or getting less complicated can all be good things to do sometimes.

Nowadays they use made up words, such as "downsizing" to avoid the negative associations tied up with the actual word "degrading".


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Peace
Date: 05 Nov 03 - 06:19 PM

After the teacher finished degrading, s/he gave the students their marks.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Nov 03 - 12:31 AM

But if s/he was degrading the students' papers, surely there would be no marks?:-) Reminds of the old "Composers don't die, they just decompose."


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 06 Nov 03 - 04:13 AM

Depends, Kat: if she made marks all over the papers, they'd be degraded all right. Alternatively, "After s/he degraded the students, s/he marked their papers."

I suspect brucie may have been employing to the sense of this story:
You'll remember Idi Amin, sometime president of Uganda? he was lie a cross between George W Bush and Jack the Ripper, only African. One day a newspaper reporter asked him, "What do you propose to do about defence, General" He replied, "Don' worry about de fence, I got de man comin' in de mornin' wid de hammer and de nails!"

Now that's degrading!

Steve


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 06 Nov 03 - 09:40 AM

To amend Brucie's post:

After the teacher finished degrading, s/he gave de students their marks.

or maybe After the teacher finished degrading, s/he gave D students their marks.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: JennyO
Date: 06 Nov 03 - 10:27 AM

So those students were D Graded.


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: Peace
Date: 06 Nov 03 - 10:32 AM

There are times a guy should know better than to post here.

I will say the following a few times:

WHALE
OIL
BEEF
HOOKED


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Subject: RE: NPR - degradation of language & music
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Nov 03 - 11:05 AM

LOL...I think the author shoudl read this thread!

To amend Dave O's: After the teacher finished degrading, s/he gave de students der marks. Or, even, de marks.:-)


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