Thursday, December 25, 2014

Terrible Mistakes and Bad Manners in American English

After criticizing the German language harshly—mainly the k-spelling of old Latin and French loanwords, spelled with c—I have to be just and also name some bad habits in American English. I do not know whether these mistakes are also common in British English.

Latin loanwords, like media, bacteria, data etc.¹ are plural forms. The singular forms are: medium, bacterium, datum—or you say just "date", which is also correct. It is very common to say, "Radio is a media." Media is the Latin plural of the neuter medium! However common it is, you out yourself as ignorant, if you make that mistake. Your message then is, "I'm one of those ignorant American grammar hillbillies who neither know, nor care."

Correct is: A newspaper is a medium—papers, radio, TV, internet are media. A bacterium causes an infection—the cause of the infection are bacteria. Normally we use data in plural form: These data are very interesting (you cannot say "This data is" for data is the Latin plural!). Of course you can say like, "This datum of those data is interesting"—datum is very uncommon in English, but not wrong. Why don't you just say: this fact, or this point. However, "this data" is false.

What I also never do is saying "this news" since the final s looks like an English plural and I really think it is a plural. In the dictionary of my brain is only "these news".

Now we get to the global standard of courtesy in universal English: I am, but you are. In case I was (correct!) you, I'd be polite to myself and say "I were" to myself, but I'm not a hillbilly. The sentence "If I were you..." is very common in American English, but nonsense. Though, it cannot be denied, even moderately intelligent Americans use this terrible "subjunctive mood". In modern English grammar the subjunctive doesn't exist—it never made sense and should die out. Really smart Americans say, "If I was you..." Which is the proper standard in global, universal English:
  • I am
  • you are
  • if I was
  • if you were
"Were" is the polite if-clause and only a hillbilly is being polite to himself! I am polite to you and not to myself. Just insist on your kind of America being exceptionally ignorant in this matter and go.

Finally, the word "pathetic", which is the verb of the old Greek rhetorical PATHOS. Pathos is an actual art and nothing ridiculous or pitiful. Are you guessing what I am driving at? It is not to deny, that pathos is often considered obsolete today, although rhetorical masters like Martin Luther King where really great at it. His "I had a dream" speech was really great pathos. True, great pathos also was Hillary Clinton quoting the abolitionist Harriet Tubman in her DNC-speech, after admitting, Barack Obama had won the nomination to run as president:
"If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going."
Let me finally ad, African Americans are still masters in the ancient art of pathos and here it's rarely embarrassing, whereas if 'Caucasians' (also misleading word!)² try to be pathetic, it's often like "America is the greatest country in the world" and actually very-very embarrassing.

I know, if we pity a person in an ironic way, we use "pathetic" as allegory and this is not wrong. But this allegory is being overused and hardly anybody seems to know, it's actually an allegory and what "pathetic" really means. Martin Luther King was a very pathetic orator, which is the art of heartfelt, powerful speech, without overdoing it and being kitschy or boastful. Black soul music is also full of pathos—often powerfully heartfelt expressions about having lost one's heart. Whereas we know 'Caucasian' (crypto-Nazi language?)² love songs as too often heartfelt in a kitschy way.
Demoiselle Amelise

¹ More Latin neuters within the English language are: millennium/millennia, saeculum/saecula (means century/centuries), speculum/specula, etc. ....
² The expression "Caucasian" is actually misleading if not meaning people from Caucasus. This comes from a concept of race, in German called "Rassentheorie", which resulted in National Socialism. In Germany the abusive form of "Caucasian" is obsolete.