“I’ve become a such a prude since I became a mother,” I said to my husband. I had just seen a commercial where the word “crap” was used. It’s not as if we were watching late night tv. This was during a morning news program. Am I wrong in thinking this sort of language doesn’t need to be used so freely when children are around? I know, I know, I can always turn the tv off, but sue me if I’d like to hear some news with my breakfast.
It’s not just that, either. I’ve become hyper-sensitive to any language below par, which is a big change for me from B.C., as my mom would say (Before Children). Even the news programs I watch don’t use proper English a lot of the time. I realize they are intended for public consumption, but what does it say about our society? Is the media simply reflecting our current culture or is it perpetuating the degradation of our language?
I’ve also noticed that I hear things in my home differently. I’ve always been the type of person to absorb my surroundings. When I studied abroad in Germany for a year, I came back with a voice that had dropped an octave. No one told me until some months later when my voice had raised again to normal pitch. I must have seemed like a drag queen…pretty face, pretty low voice. I digress, though. I’ve been hearing my husband drop his g’s. Tryin’, cookin’, runnin’. What’s worse is that I’ve been hearing myself do the same thing! I really don’t remember hearing the little grammatical and accent-related differences when we were dating or even when we were first married. Now, it drives me up a wall. My husband is intelligent and capable and I believe how we speak makes a difference in the impression we make upon people. I’ve started correcting him, not just because I want to stop doing it myself, but also because I want our children to speak well. Does anyone remember Lucy teaching Ricky how to read for Little Ricky? Reading, writing and speaking skills are the foundation of a good education and since I want the best and brightest future for my children, I want them to read, write and speak well.
Please don’t misunderstand my message. I don’t believe we need to walk around speaking the Queen’s English, but I do believe we need to hold some standards. Moreover, I believe that our media should assist in maintaining those standards. Short cuts in text messaging and twitter don’t have to equal the erosion of proper language skills. I think the majority of people in our society are more intelligent than some may give credit for. If given the opportunity to rise above and excel, we will. Yet, we cannot help but be influenced by what we see and hear day after day, hour after hour. Widespread media influences our culture, even as it is a reflection of our society. It’s circular. If standards are lowered in one area, they will only continue to lower in the next and around the merry-go-round we go. So, as I try to preempt my dropped g’s and mispronounced o’s, I want to set a sense of propriety in motion. If I make an effort to hold up standards, then the standards will continue to be held. Even if it’s only in my own home.