When did they stop teaching English in Australian schools?
It’s easy to say that the decline in proper use of the language is a phenomenon exclusive to Generation-Y but it appears to go further than that. Don’t get me wrong, Gen-Y and their successors are still the worst offenders but the inability express one’s self correctly is rather wide-spread and that’s without getting into “SMS” abbreviated English. That is pure butchery of the language, an aberration that should be stricken from the vernacular. What I’m talking about though is simply a poor understanding of the mechanics of English. Indeed the basic rules that I for one learned in late primary school, and I was taught by Irish monks!
Perhaps the most culpable offenders are newsreaders and media personalities – those who make their living from the English language. How many times have you heard a newsreader on either television or radio say “an historic”? So blatantly incorrect that it doesn’t even roll off the tongue. For the record “an” is only used to precede words that begin with a vowel or where the first consonant is silent as in “an honour”. You wouldn’t say “an history book” so why say “an historic event”?
The other example of bad mechanics that has become prevalent of late is the incorrect transposition of the words “then” and “than”. People have taken to saying things like “this is better then that” rather than the correct “this is better than that”. This is how Wikipedia explains correct usage and even goes so far as to make my point for me, “Then is a common adverb in English, indicating the apodosis of a conditional sentence. It is never equivalent to or synonymous with the conjunction than (although in a small number of accents the two may be considered homophones) nor the adjective thin. It may also mean that (period of) time, much as there can mean that place.” Than, on the other hand is described by Wikipedia as such. "Than" is a grammatical particle serving as both conjunction and preposition in the English language. It introduces a comparison, and as such is associated with comparatives, and with words such as more, less, and fewer. Typically, it seeks to measure the force of an adjective or similar description between two predicates.”
Whilst there are many “crimes against the language” that I could point to, my last example for the purposes of this article is the idiotic and lazy use of the phrases “could of”, “should of” and “would of” instead of the correct “could have”, “should have” and “would have” or even the acceptable contractions of each “could’ve”, “would’ve” and “should’ve”
I could go on for days on this topic however I think I’ve made my point. Whilst I have always advocated that English is an undisciplined and unnecessarily complex language with more exceptions than rules, it is the official language of Australia and the vehicle with which we communicate. It therefore behoves all of us to learn to practice it more effectively, especially those who make a living from its use.