In one way, I feel that there has been a definite decline in literacy rates over the years. Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes abound; even leading newspapers are rife with typos. No doubt part of this is due to online writing, texting, and the shorthand of social media networks such as Twitter. In another way, I see texting and shorthand writing styles as a brand new version of English: a whole language in and of itself. They have also, I believe, altered slang words and thus had a profound effect on the way that we speak.
What particularly interests me is how the way that we speak and the way that we write can vary considerably.
When I was a child, I attended church every Sunday morning. One part of the ritual each Sunday morning at church was to recite the Lord’s Prayer. I would stand up with my hands folded in front of me, head bowed, and murmur the words along with everyone else as we stood in the pews.
At least, I thought I was murmuring the words.
In reality, I had no idea what many of the words were. When everyone says the same lines together, it becomes sounds being made rather than words being spoken: Our Father, who art in heaven, howl be thy name…
We slur our words when we speak. We drop off letters and turn the “t” into a “d”. Speaking with precision and enunciation* is as rare these days as good posture.
Most of the time, we are aware of the proper spelling (or at least, I should hope that we are). Even if we do slur our words (“gonna” instead of “going”), we tend to realize how they should really be pronounced. Other times, such as with my experience of the Lord’s Prayer, we simply have no idea about what the real word is: hallowed instead of howl.
One of the most common mistakes occurs in the usage of “have been”. I would have been frequently becomes I would of been in e-mails, because that is how we say the phrase. And it gives me cause to wonder how many people write “of been” without realizing that it should be the word “have” instead. If we make the effort to enunciate words correctly, we will be more capable of perfecting our knowledge of sentence structure and grammar, and of increasing our vocabularies.
*Until writing this post, I ironically believed that “enunciate” was spelled “annunciate”, due to incorrect pronunciations of the word! “Annunciate” actually means “to announce”.