Leave our colourful language alone, you lazy Yanks

September 16, 2011

Why do Americans use math in its singular form, rather than plural?
The word is mathematics, not mathematic. Surely you’re not so lazy that you can’t be bothered to pronounce one extra letter?
I’ve written previously (and probably will do again) about how I find it staggering that the US of A seem unable to use our language the way it was intended, and they seem, like an excited teenager, keen to create their own ‘cool’ version of it.
Before anyone starts moaning that language evolves, and improves for the better, I absolutely agree. If language didn’t evolve and adapt to the changing world in which we live, then we’d all still talk like we’d just stepped out of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. And that would be pretty confusing.
But removing one letter from words because it seems easier? Come on.
Here’s a great little film about a man (who is American) and his take on the oddities of the English language. He’s called Ed Rondthaler and he’s a legend in the world of typesetting. He points out some real gripes about the English language, and each of the ones he points out is daft in its own way. He was 102 years old when he made this.

I teach people how to write. I explain that the best way (generally) to communicate with people is to write like you talk. Not how you’d talk after a few pints down the pub, but just how you’d talk to your friends. You can flex, or tweak, your tone of voice by changing who you imagine you’re speaking to. If it’s something that requires gravitas and levity, then imagine you’re talking to your boss, or a policeman, or a teacher. If it’s more of a youth audience, then imagine you’re talking to a friend (if you’re lucky and are still relatively young), or to one of your children, or to a niece or nephew. It’s not exactly rocket science (unless you’re writing copy for a scientific paper, in which case, it might be).
And whatever you do, read what you’ve written out loud before you publish it. I’ll repeat that, just in case. Read it out loud. There’s no better way to spot mistakes or problem areas than to read it out loud. If you run out of breath, or have trouble with any sentences you’ve written, then you should rewrite it. The general rule I stick to is ‘If you need to re-read it, then you need to rewrite it.’
And, while I’m having a minor rant, what is it with the US’s way of describing everything in insane detail? Sidewalk. Horseback riding. Honestly, how else would you think about riding a horse? Horsehead riding?
I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say that it doesn’t seem too tricky to remember an extra letter in words like colour, flavour and fuc*ing maths.

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