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July 18, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Those of us who study language have realized that there are two approaches to language; how it should be used correctly - and of course....

...how it is actually used.

Prescriptive is the term we use for how language is spoken grammatically correctly - which just means using proper vocabulary and following the standard accepted rules of grammar. "Prescriptive" of course is the same word used to describe medicine "prescribed" by a doctor.

Descriptive is quite different - almost a distinct dialect. This is the language, English for example, full of fragments, abbreviations, slang, pieces of words and even made-up words between friends or colleagues.

This is the language full of OK, ain't, LOL, Was'sup, uh, huh, mmmmmm, and many more terms that defy spelling.

I tell my students that a word like "ain't" is never proper - but it will also never go away. It is just too darn useful. I describe it as a Swiss Army knife of language - it fits a multitude of situations. I rarely use it - but sometimes it is the only word that fits.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I like traditional Blues music. A typical line from a Blues song might be "I ain't got nobody". Translated into "proper" grammar, that line would be robbed of its power and punch. There's something fierce and sometimes painful and desperate about that word "ain't" in a song like that.

I love the well crafted sentence - and essay. But I also love the rough-edged Blues song that speaks of a barely comprehensible, bare-knuckled encounter with the harsh reality of betrayal and survival in spite of impossible circumstances.

We are all learning. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

I have asked readers of this blog to submit their dream job (related to language instruction). Send yours. The best length would be about 200-350 words. Over the next week or so, I'll be collecting them and I'll post the best one(s) and send the best writer this CD.

Yes, I'll send it anywhere in the world as long as you have a valid mailing address. Sound good? Then get writing!

I'll be doing several of these over the next few months. Good luck to all!


Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

What do you most want to do? Where would you like to be? Who would you want to work with?

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

He is also waiting for an irresistible job offer...

Posted by mmorf at July 18, 2009 12:13 PM

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Awesome post!

Posted by: Brittany at April 6, 2010 12:49 PM

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