To be or not to be — that remains the question today when it comes to the subject of grammar. No, not the school subject which can be traumatic and nose-bleed-inducing but the subject of applying grammar for blog-writing. And it covers just about all levels since ordinary people write blogs, just as senators (or their writers do) and professional writers do.
But often, when we mention grammar, the grammar guardians will always mean correct grammar. Someone might ask: Is there a different kind of grammar?
I believe there are as many grammars (or ways of writing in any language) as there are people. For example, Americans love to add the word “thingy” to every word they cannot recall or for any thing they do not know how to call – such as the pointed “thingy” that the pope wears during high mass or the green “thingy” you add to soy sauce to make a dip for sashimi.
So, who decides what correct grammar is or should be? Shakespeare? The English professors at Oxford or Harvard? My retired English professor-friend? Or the latest book on grammar from Amazon?
Grammar has rules or laws. But who made them in the first place?
Imagine the first human who ever spoke. Did he have a teacher? I suppose he had. Did his teacher teach him grammar? If by grammar we mean proper construction of words to form intelligible sentences that carry sensible or meaningful words, he must have for he had the best teacher of all time and eternity!
Reading the Bible (or any classic work) is one of the best ways to learn grammar. In fact, it has been the best way for centuries since many of the translators, particularly of the old King James Version published in 1611, were linguistic scholars who were contemporaries of Shakespeare (who may have been one of the translators) and were proficient in English as well as in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. And remember, the last four hundred years gave us many excellent writers and leaders who grew up reading God speak in King James’ English: Twain, Dickens, Verne, Steinbeck, Lincoln, Darwin, and Livingstone, among others!
That reminds me of a country – Japan or China, I cannot recall – where some adults are taught to speak English by listening, singing and studying the popular songs of the Beatles. Not a bad idea actually as the Four Fab did speak Her Majesty’s English. Until, of course, they learned from the Americans and picked up some of the bad grammar. “One and one and one is three.” Here come them ol’ grammar cops come together with their batons flying in the air!
But we all know King James English is passé – not bad grammar, only outrageous conjugations. But if so, why do people still enjoy watching Shakespearean plays? I would venture to say it is not the grammar they are after but the sense of style and flair words are spoken. It is the passion in words, not the words themselves that matter. Rap music is popular because of that very reason. So is rock music and almost every kind of music, including grammar-less, sometimes senseless dance music. The beat in the spoken words energizes the heart to heights of rapturous flight!
But someone would say, “That is spoken language!” What about serious, written language we read online? Oh yeah? Did anyone ever really hear Shakespeare or his characters speak? We used the Bible and Shakespeare to prove that the written word can and do possess life and passion and truth.
We must write then to enhance life and all that is possible in it. The “thou”, “doth not” and “be still” may have given way to “yo”, “da’n’t” and “hush”; but the essence and purpose of grammar remain: clear and understandable sentences.
In the end, it is the message, news or story that matters. As long as the majority of people get the meaning, the grammar matters less. Good grammar may lift us high to fits of ecstasy as that balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet does to any hopeless romantic; but love is intoxicating enough without grammar getting into the picture. The words, spun masterfully by the bard, and flowing effortlessly from lovers entranced by each other’s beauty and each other’s surplus of words is the pinnacle of what human potential is all about.
Words can make us fall into endless love. And, conversely, love can make us fall endlessly into words and words and words. In short, we can fall in love with words and with perfect grammar. The dangers of Babel’s pride remains alive and confusion can arise from any writer who loses the fundamental goal of language.
So who really needs good grammar? If we could write like a poet every time we post a blog or a tweet, we would all be writers aware of the power of language and of the human potential for which we were destined. Meaning would flood our lives and no tweet would ever be wasted on the fly. Adam, the first language user for many of us, did clearly understand his destiny until the serpent twisted it with the use of “seductive” language. The grammar was good as well; but the purpose was evil.
There it is: While grammar is essential; it is the ultimate intention we use it for that matters. No matter how good or perfect our language may be if people are deceived or made to suffer, the truly wise among us would rather choose to use five “well-spoken words” — even in poor grammar – as long as we lead people along the right path.
Grammar is the basic technical requirement for good, acceptable language. But “well-spoken words”, though they violate grammar rules, will never violate any law. Grammar must pay homage to the higher, intangible standards of life, love and, well, language as well.
Article adapted from Search Engine Journal.
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