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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Deer Judge Judy: A Tail About Me and Harry

Me and Harry went for a walk the other day. On the walk we seen lots of things. We seen real pretty leaves falling and we seen other dogs and we seen some other people. Then me and Harry came home.

Does anybody out there think this paragraph (not to mention the headline) makes me sound kinda ... stupid??

One of my favorite shows is Judge Judy. I love the way JJ deals with the idiots who are suing each other for things like kids writing in crayon on rental apartment walls and loans that the defendants inevitably insist were gifts. Most fascinating to me, however, is the lack of language skills that permeates the show. It's gotten to the point where I tune in just to hear abominable English, the way rubberneckers slow down to see the gory details of a car accident. For quite some time now I've been wondering how JJ can stand it, and in fact have also been wondering if she even notices anymore.

Well apparently she does. The other night a couple of highschoolers were suing each other over a rumble. Girl "A" hit Girl "B" across the face with a bottle in response to Girl "B" threatening a friend of Girl "A." When Judge Judy asked Girl "B" to explain the circumstances, "B" began with "Me and Amber were at the gas station and I seen Girl "A" coming at me with a bottle and ..." at which point she was interrupted by Judy, who evidently couldn't take it anymore.

"You SAW her," JJ snarled.

Girl "B" blinked, cocking her head like a curious (and stupid) sparrow.

JJ then added, gazing squarely into the camera: "I just want America to know that I'm aware of this shattering of the English language."

The "shattering of the English language." Exactly. And sadly, the Judge Judy show is far from being the only pond containing such poisonous water. The inability of Americans -- particularly young ones -- to utter an intelligent sentence is everywhere. "Me and So-and-So" seems to have become the new normal. I hear it on TV, in movies, on the street, and in the store where I buy my coffee. Is ANYBODY teaching proper English anymore?? Do students write "Me and Somebody" in term papers, and does that get corrected or do teachers just let it slide, intoning the importance of the message and not the details and insisting they don't want to harm the delicate egos of those in their charge?

Parents and teachers and throngs of others have been engaged in relentless carping about the Common Core Curriculum. "It's not right, it's too hard, it's too complicated, it's too politicized." Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. The big question, though, is does CC -- or any curriculum -- teach basic English? Is anybody out there telling their students and children that me and Harry didn't go for a walk, that instead Harry and I went for a walk? Here's another favorite: "Bob was so nice to Harry and I." No, Bob wasn't. Bob was so nice to Harry and ME. This was one of the first lessons I learned in grade school ... take out "to Harry and" from the sentence and what you've got, at least in the first example, is Bob was so nice to I. Is that next great wave of our language's evolution? "Gee, Bob fixed my flat tire, he sure was nice to I." Folks are famous for discussing the evolution of the language, how "urban" terms end up in the dictionary, how "lol" and "omg" are now part of the vernacular. I've got no problem with this. What I DO have a problem with is my fellow Americans sounding like they just arrived in their spaceship after a long, drug-induced trip from Remulak.

I don't expect 20- (and 30-) somethings to walk around quoting Shakespeare, but for the love of God, can't they at least speak as though English isn't their second language? It's no wonder people around the world think Americans are morons. Educators are so worked up about being sure school kids are up to snuff in math and science that they seem to have missed the language skills boat. I can only imagine the horror: a grown American scientist, one who went to school in the current decade, finds a cure for cancer and twenty years from now announces publicly, "Me and my team are real happy about it, LOL!. We seen them cancer cells under the microscope and OMG .. zapped 'em!"

Most shattering about the Judge Judy example is that the girls testifying about their rumble were still in high school, allegedly under the guidance of educators, of ENGLISH teachers.

When some slacker takes money from someone else and says he didn't pay it back because (shrug) "It's not my fault, I didn't have the money," JJ is often heard to say, "Well you ARE going to pay it back, you're not getting away with this, not in MY America."

Dear Judge Judy: Ethics, morals, political and individual responsibility, courage of convictions, courage in general, and even something as seemingly insignificant as a simple declarative sentence are becoming ghosts in our culture. People who once said "I did it, it's my fault, I'll accept the consequences" are on the dinosaur track, being replaced by shruggers who steal and scheme and can't even speak intelligently while they're doing it. Dear Judge Judy: unless parents and teachers start walking a different road, unless they stop complaining about political agendas and start teaching the difference between right and wrong (which includes the garbage coming out of their mouths), unless they start teaching kids consequences for their actions and stop giving them everything their little hearts desire, your America, and mine, is on the downhill slide. 

Buckle up.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum